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The Guardians’ streak of eight straight winning years, which included three American League Central titles and five playoff appearances, came to an end with an 80-82 finish in 2021. Not coincidentally, they also sported the second-lowest payroll in baseball: $53 million, down from $123.1 million in their last full season in 2019.
Since mid-2019, Cleveland has traded Trevor Bauer, Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Francisco Lindor, Carlos Carrasco and Eddie Rosario and declined options on Brad Hand and Carlos Santana. It’s biggest move thus far this offseason has been signing free agent Luke Maile for one year and $900,000.
To return to contention, the Guardians will need to lean on a farm system that has been up to the task in recent years. The bulk of their rotation comes from the 2016 Draft — Shane Bieber (fourth round), Aaron Civale (third) and Zach Plesac (12th) — and they remain deep in pitching prospects. Logan Allen and Cody Morris should be ready to contribute in 2022, while Daniel Espino has more upside than any Cleveland mound prospect since CC Sabathia and could force his way to the big leagues.
Jose Ramirez, a bargain $50,000 find out of the Dominican Republic in 2009, continues to anchor the lineup and soon could be joined by a wave of international signees that includes outfielder George Valera and infielders Gabriel Arias, Brayan Rocchio and Jose Tena. That group is probably a year away from the Majors with the exception of Arias, who could arrive in Cleveland this year along with infielders Tyler Freeman and Nolan Jones and outfielders Steven Kwan and Richie Palacios.
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2021 preseason list to the 2022 preseason list.
Jump: Logan Allen, LHP (2021: 25 | 2022: 8) — The former Florida International two-way star cruised to Double-A while leading the system with a 2.26 ERA in his pro debut.
(tie) Jose Tena, INF (2021: 26 | 2022: 9) — He improved his strength, power and arm during the pandemic layoff, then capped a productive 2021 with an Arizona Fall League batting title (.387).
Fall: Aaron Bracho, 2B/3B/1B (2021: 9 | 2022: NR) — His conditioning, production and plate discipline all regressed during a .174/.269/.299 season in High-A at age 20.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools — 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 65 — Tyler Freeman
Power: 60 — Nolan Jones (Jhonkensy Noel)
Run: 60 — Richie Palacios (Isaiah Greene, Petey Halpin, Brayan Rocchio, Carson Tucker)
Arm: 75 — Gabriel Arias
Defense: 60 — Brayan Rocchio (Gabriel Arias, Steven Kwan, Milan Tolentino)
Fastball: 70 — Daniel Espino (Gavin Williams)
Curveball: 55 — Gavin Williams (Tanner Burns, Daniel Espino, Cody Morris, Tobias Myers, Doug Nikhazy)
Slider: 65 — Daniel Espino
Changeup: 60 — Logan Allen
Control: 60 — Logan Allen
How they were built
Draft: 20 | International: 6 | Trade: 4
Breakdown by ETA
2022: 10 | 2023: 8 | 2024: 11 | 2025: 1
Breakdown by position
C: 2 | 2B: 3 | 3B: 3 | SS: 6 | OF: 4 | RHP: 10 | LHP: 2