Highlighting these studs from the Guardians’ ’23 Draft class

8:00 PM UTC

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.

Let’s check in on the Guardians’ 2023 Draft class.

I wanted to find the one guy from last year’s list of draftees who is standing out so much that it gives fans reasons to be even more excited for the way this year’s No. 1 overall pick could go. But the more I looked at everyone’s numbers, the more I realized there was no way to highlight just one prospect. So, let’s take a look at the top three guys who were drafted last year and are already giving fans reasons to be optimistic about the future.

1. RHP Andrew Walters (No. 24 on Guardians’ Top 30 Prospects list), Triple-A ColumbusWalters was selected in Competitive Balance Round B (No. 62 overall) in last year’s Draft, and already has his sights set on Cleveland in his first professional season. He dazzled in Double-A Akron to start the year, racking up 38 strikeouts in 20 innings with eight walks and a sparkling 1.35 ERA in 17 appearances. He was promoted to Triple-A Columbus on May 28 and struggled in his first outing, allowing four earned runs in one inning, but the Guardians are more than confident that he’ll settle in. And once he does, it won’t be long before fans are begging for the triple-digit-throwing righty to join Cleveland’s bullpen.

2. 1B C.J. Kayfus (No. 28), High-A Lake CountyKayfus was selected in the third round (No. 93 overall) of last year’s Draft and was able to get into some game action in 2023, joining Single-A Lynchburg for 17 games. In that span, he hit .271 with a .971 OPS, four homers and 19 RBIs — giving everyone a taste of what he’s capable of. This year, he picked up right where he left off, playing at High-A Lake County instead. In his first 38 games, he hit .340 with a 1.025 OPS, seven homers, 11 doubles, two triples and 36 RBIs. Drafted as a hit-before-power bat, Kayfus is already displaying his ability to tap into more slug, which can only help an organization that’s looking for more strength. MLB Pipeline projects Kayfus to be Major League ready in 2026, but he’s already proving he’s worth keeping an eye on now.

3. 1B Ralphy Velazquez (No. 4), Single-A LynchburgAnd now to last year’s top pick. Velazquez was drafted as a catcher, but the Guardians have already made the decision that he’s better defensively at first base. The reason to select him wasn’t his defense, anyway. It was his bat that wowed everyone, especially for a kid coming out of high school. So far, he’s giving a preview of why he’s so intriguing. He got off to a hot start to the season, slashing .288/.379/.507 in the month of April. His performance wasn’t as consistent in May, but last week, he enjoyed a six-game hitting streak in which he went 10-for-24 with four doubles and a homer.

To close out every Pipeline Newsletter, we always want to go around the horn and make sure we hit on a standout player from every part of Cleveland’s farm system. Since we already touched on Triple-A, High-A and Single-A, let’s give some love to Double-A, too.

Double-A Akron: He may not have come from last year’s Draft class, but righty Aaron Davenport has been solid all season long. In 10 starts, he’s pitched to a 1.87 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 19 walks in 53 innings.