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Major League Baseball's offseason is underway, 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 couple of months examining the top three prospects in each organization. We define "prospects" as retaining their rookie eligibility for the 2024 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. You can check out our winter top 25 list by clicking here.

With that in mind, let's get to it by dissecting the Cleveland Guardians.

1. Kyle Manzardo, 1B (23 years old)

  • The short version: Polished first baseman without elite strength.
  • MLB ETA: Spring 2024

The Guardians obtained Manzardo from the Rays at the trade deadline in exchange for veteran right-hander Aaron Civale. All Manzardo has done as a professional is hit and hit some more by combining a disciplined approach with a feel for the barrel. He lacks the top-end exit velocities (and strength) commonly associated with the first-base position. All the Guardians can do is hope that he continues to make up for it by hitting for average (something he notably did not do in Triple-A) and minding the zone. He should get an opportunity to join the Cleveland lineup sometime early in 2024.

2. Chase DeLauter, OF (22 years old)

  • The short version: Injury-prone outfielder has produced when healthy.
  • MLB ETA: Summer 2024

We've been fans of DeLauter dating back to his polarizing days at James Madison, where he dominated subpar competition despite unorthodox swing mechanics. Scouts were mixed on whether or not he'd look as good against better pitching. Alas, it remains an open question 18 months later. Various injuries have limited him to just 57 regular-season games as a pro, plus an impressive 23-game stint in the Arizona Fall League that saw him hit .299/.385/.529 with more walks than strikeouts. DeLauter had wider error bars than the standard first-round collegiate bat even before the injury bug nested in his gear bag. For now, all we can do is shrug at what the future holds for him.

3. Brayan Rocchio, MIF (23 years old)

  • The short version: Contact-first infielder with some big questions to answer.
  • MLB ETA: Debuted in 2023

Rocchio is the latest member of the Guardians' switch-hitting infielder fraternity, joining the likes of Asdrúbal Cabrera, Carlos Santana, Francisco Lindor, and José Ramírez. He debuted last May, but he didn't get an extended look until August. That didn't go well, resulting in a return to the farm for most of the final month. It's fine that Rocchio's current game is based around making a lot of contact (he connected on 86% of his in-zone swings in Triple-A), yet he'll need to continue to develop in other areas. He recorded an exit velocity over 105 mph on just a handful of batted balls in 2023, suggesting he needs to add more strength. Additionally, he committed four errors in 24 big-league games while showcasing a below-average arm, putting his future defensive home in question. Pretending that he's a finished product before his age-23 season would be unwise. Still, there's reason to be skeptical about him reaching his previously forecasted heights.