Photo credit: TCP Photography/Courtesy Lake County Captains
Our next 2022 Prospect Award at Guardians Baseball Insider is our 2022 Defensive Prospect of the Year. This award relies heavily on our ability to see Guardians position player prospects live and through video. There are limited defensive metrics that can help us confirm or contradict what our eyes see from these players. So, awarding the GBI Defensive Prospect of the Year relies on our in-person looks at Guardians prospects and also sources information and opinions from those who have also seen these prospects in person over the previous year.
This year we’ve chosen to take a bit of a different route with how we Determine who wins this award. In previous years we awarded it to just one Prospect. However, this year we felt like it made sense to name two award winners for infield and outfield each, because those are different skills and there are standouts at both positions that represent different skill sets. Catchers are also considered with the infielders for this award and are eligible with them, instead of on their own.
Take a look at our previous 2022 GBI awards:
GBI 2022 Cleveland Guardians Defensive Prospect of the Year nominees:
C Bo Naylor
Offense wasn’t the only area where Bo Naylor improved in 2022. In 2021, Naylor threw out 31% of would-be base-stealers at Double-A Akron. This year, that number only jumped to 32%. But that is still above Major League average which is 25%. In 2022 Naylor had seven passed balls all season, which was down from 10 in 2021. Where the younger Naylor really excelled in 2022 were his defensive metrics from Baseball Prospectus, which is our best public source of catcher framing and other catcher defensive metrics. Naylor was eighth in all of Triple-A in Fielding Runs Above Average (FRAA) at 6.3. He was also 12th in all of Triple-A in Framing Runs at 5.2. Where Naylor may need to improve is with his blocking and he will be challenged throwing next year with the new pickoff rules. Clay Davenport’s defensive ratings also have him at a +13 for 2022. Defensively, catcher is one of those positions where intangibles matter and defensive statistics often are even harder to judge a player on Beyond just traditional scouting. Make up, handling pitching staffs and game calling all matter and for catchers. Naylor took it upon himself to learn Spanish to better communicate with his teammates which can only help him working with pitchers. He also showed great dedication to working with his pitchers each game and throughout the season, which Cleveland continues to be impressed by. There are still some steps to take for Naylor defensively that may require more time and Triple-A but no doubt this was a solid season, and scouting as well as the numbers back that up for Naylor.
INF Jose Tena
Jose Tena is a repeat nominee for this award from 2021. He won a minor league Gold Glove at shortstop last season and Was voted as the best defensive shortstop in the Midwest League last year from Baseball America survey results of managers in the league. This year in Double-A he played mostly shortstop again and also spent time at second. He made 15 errors shortstop in 2022 up from three in 2021. However, those are not always accurate stats to go off of for these types of awards and projections. Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics do have him at a -4 shortstop and a -6 at second base, so all around defensive metrics felt he didn’t have a very good 2022 season defensively. However, in 2021 he was only a +1 at shortstop and third base among Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics Tena continues to show good range a solid glove and hands, and an arm that can play it short or third, as well as his versatility.
INF Angel Martinez
Martinez has some of the best defensive instincts and natural ability in the Cleveland system. He has good hands and one of the better arms in the system to go along with smooth range. He spent most of his time at shortstop in 2022 although he also played second and third quite a bit. He is continuing to play all three infield spots in the Arizona Fall League currently. He made just one error at shortstop in Double-A, although he made nine at 50 games in High-A. Again, errors and fielding percentage are not a good measure to go on when talking about Defense for players. In Lake County he had a + 2 defensive rating at shortstop and second base in Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics. He was an even zero at short in Double-A and -4 at second base.
INF Milan Tolentino
Tolentino is another rangey defender with a plus arm. He also has versatility, playing shortstop, third base, and some second base as well. He made just five errors at shortstop in Low-A and four in High-A where he spent most of his time in 2022. At High-A Lake County, he had a +5 defensive rating, and a +1 defensive rating at shortstop and third base respectively in Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics
SS Brayan Rocchio
Ruocchio was a bit of a controversial add to this list in 2022. He is a repeat nominee for defensive prospect of the Year, appearing on this list in 2021. He had a combined 16 errors at his primary position, shortstop. He also spent some time at second base this year where he made seven errors. Due to his range, Rocchio has a tendency to get to more balls and try to make plays on ground balls that others may not get to and that he should either avoid going all out for, or learn when to not to attempt a throw. However, he is one of the better defenders in the system overall. He was nominated for this list last season when he had a -1 defensive rating at shortstop in Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics and this tear he had a -3 and -5 respectively and Akron in Columbus. Still, the defensive tools and range are always on display with Rocchio.
OF Petey Halpin
Halpin is one of the best all-around defensive outfielders in the Cleveland system. He possesses great speed, range,instincts and a great throwing arm. He was credited with nine outfield assists from center field this year and Lake County as a 20-year-old. His route running was solid, while showing tremendous range and a good first step on fly balls. He went back on fly balls with ease and used his closing speed to come in on balls hit in front of him. His route-running should only get better with more experience. Most who saw him in Lake County this year felt he was the best all-around defensive outfielder on that team and is in the conversation for the entire system. Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics also had him at a +4 in center field and a +1 in right field as well to back all of this up.Halpin has a good future ahead of him as he can play all three outfield spots in addition to his growth offensively in 2022 as a 20 year old playing in High-A for his first year in full-season ball.
OF Alexfri Planez
After playing all three outfield spots in 2021 at Single-A Lynchburg, Alexfri Planez was almost exclusively used in right field in High-A Lake County, with some cameos in left field. Planez was credited with eight outfield assists from the right field spot in Lake County this year. While he is not the rangiest defender in the outfield, he has more than enough speed two profile in right field as a quality defender. Clay Davenport’s defensive ratings had him at a + 11 in right field and a 0 in left field. Most feel he has one of the best throwing arms among outfielders in the Cleveland system. He can probably fill in at center field if needed but is a better fit in right field long term.
OF Will Brennan
Willie Baseball didn’t just have a good season at the plate. He is another nominee for defensive prospect of the year among our outfield group. He mostly spent time in center field this year and also spent a little time in left field, and made a few cameos in right field. He had three assists from center field between Double-A and Triple-A, showing off his above average arm from the outfield, along with his speed and range. He could still take better routes, and sometimes gets turned around going back on balls, but he has the instincts and speed to recover in some of those cases. He was a +1 defensive value in center field in Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics and an even zero in left field as well as an even zeo in right field.
OF Julian Escobedo
Escobedo doesn’t get a lot of love among prospects in the Cleveland system due to his Bat. But he has consistently been one of the most solid defenders in the system. He manned center field for the most part in Double-A Akron this year, coming up with two outfield assists from that position, as well as one from the right field position. Escobedo had a +5 defensive rating in center field and a +6 defensive rating in left field in Clay Davenport’s defensive metrics. He has effortless range and speed in the outfield.