Major League Baseball's offseason is in full swing, and that means everyone is thinking about the future. In most cities, that means next season; in some, though, it means the bigger picture, the next three to five years. You're either selling wins or you're selling hope, the old saying goes. We here at CBS Sports like to provide as much hope as we can around this time of the winter by evaluating each team's farm system.
Of course, that doesn't mean every team has an equally good farm system -- some, as you'll find out throughout this process, are lacking in that respect. It does mean, nevertheless, that CBS Sports will be spending the next few weeks examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2023 season, so if a young player is missing that's likely why.
These lists and evaluations are formed following conversations with scouts, analysts, and player development types. There's also firsthand evaluation and bias thrown into the mix. Keep in mind that player evaluation is a hard task, and it's fine if you disagree with the rankings. These are opinions, and they have no real bearing on the future..
With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Cleveland Guardians.
1. Daniel Espino, RHP, No. 20 on top 20 (2023 seasonal age: 22)
The main concern with Espino is his durability. To wit, he would've ranked higher on the top 20 had he not appeared in just four games this last season because of knee and shoulder injuries. When Espino is healthy, he possesses a loud arsenal that includes a hot fastball and two high-grade breaking balls. He gets his hand up early and generates impressive torque (and velocity) thanks to his hip and shoulder separation. If Espino can stay healthier in 2023, he's likely to make his big-league debut late in the year.
2. George Valera, RF (2023 seasonal age: 22)
Valera has been on lists like these since he signed for more than $1 million back in 2017. He should, at last, make his big-league debut this upcoming season. Valera split last season between the upper minors, hitting well in Double-A and not-so-well in Triple-A. His idealized form has him being an above-average hitter thanks in part to his impressive power, yet it's fair to have concerns that his strikeout rate (over 25 percent in 2022) may limit his ability to fulfill his promise. Valera has also dealt with a steady number of injuries throughout his career. Last season's 132 games played marked a new career-high, as well as the first time he's ever crossed the century mark.
3. Gavin Williams, RHP (2023 seasonal age: 23)
Williams went undrafted and unsigned as part of 2020's five-round draft. His decision to return to Eastern Carolina for the 2021 season paid off, as he improved his stock enough to come off the board at pick No. 23. Now, he seems likely to make his big-league debut sometime in 2023 after bullying minor-league hitters last season. Indeed, in 25 starts (including 16 at Double-A), he posted a 1.96 ERA and a 3.73 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Williams is a large right-hander with a big-time fastball that overwhelms hitters up in the zone. He's worked to refine his breaking stuff and his mechanics alike, allowing him more consistency with those pitches and his location. Expecting Williams to become at least a mid-rotation starter at this point is reasonable.