Cleveland’s assistant GM dishes on the Minors

45 minutes ago

This story was excerpted from Mandy Bell’s Guardians Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on some of the Guardians’ top prospects. Cleveland’s assistant general manager James Harris recently gave an update on a handful of topics:

How encouraging has it been to see Bo Naylor make such a jump offensively this season?

Harris: I wish I could bottle it up and give it to other guys. I’m sure he’s been talking to his brother, who is having an impressive season as well. He’s been working with our hitting coaches at Double-A. Junior Betances and Mike Mergenthaler are down there. Of course, his manager Rougie [Rouglas Odor] in Double-A is a hitting coach as well. Then when he gets to Triple-A, he just hits the ground running. Really exciting how he turned that around. If you look at the end of last season as well, he ended the season pretty well, but then where he started this season is nothing short of remarkable.

Suddenly, you guys have a very overcrowded outfield. How do you balance getting everyone appropriate time at each level?

Harris: You’re outlining the dilemma that we’re facing. Let’s talk about [George] Valera in right field. We have to give him some exposure to left field as well. We don’t know where the opportunity is. Oscar Gonzalez has played left and right. [Steven] Kwan is playing left, [Richie] Palacios is playing left. Maybe the opportunity might be in right field. I don’t know. Then Franmil [Reyes] comes back, and he’s playing right field. Better get Valera in left field. Same thing with Nolan Jones. Now [Johnsky] Noel is in Double-A. Noel’s played third base mostly, and then we transitioned him to right field. He’s never played left field. He’s played two or three games in left field. When he goes to Double-A, Valera has to play some left field, and on occasion, we probably need to put him in center because you don’t know where the opportunity is going to be.

How is Tyler Freeman?

Harris: Tyler Freeman missed a lot of time in Spring Training. Would have been great to get him ramped up and ready to go in midseason form by the time we started the season. That did not happen, so he started in Arizona. Now he’s starting to ramp himself up. His last 7-10 days have been pretty impressive, back to form for him. If you look at the total package, he’s still a really good player, puts the bat on the ball. Plays a good second base. Is pretty average at shortstop, but we like him there as well.

And Nolan Jones?

Harris: He’s doing great. He’s played mostly right field. We’re trying to keep him to one position because of the back. He was having some soreness earlier. Trying not to move him around too much. He’s played third, played mostly right, we’re introducing left field. I believe he’s played once or twice in left field, he’ll continue to play more in left. And he can play first base if we need him. That’s where we’re starting, but you guys know, we have no idea where those guys are going to play when they’re here. In 2016, Jos? Ram?rez played 48 games in left field. So, we have no idea.

Daniel Espino has been on the injured list since May 3. How is he progressing?

Harris: It’s hard to put a timeline exactly on what that looks like. He’s a big, physical person of a guy who’s performed great, so we’re not going to rush him back. It’s not like we have a need in that category in Double-A. So we would rather have him be healthy and return to form. When he returns to form, he’s special. So, we’d rather take our time.

He had some knee soreness that slowed him down a little bit, and then after that process he started to have some shoulder soreness. He’s basically starting from scratch and give him the opportunity to sync everything up. We feel like that’s where he is now.