The All-Star game isn’t the only mid-season fixture Guardians fans should tune into.
On Saturday, the MLB will hold its Futures Game.
The Futures Game is an opportunity to showcase some of the best prospects in baseball.
Josh Naylor, back when he was still in the Padres system, was even a starter at 2017’s Futures Game.
And way back in the Stone Age, aka 2003, Cleveland’s Grady Sizemore was named MVP of that year’s Futures Game.
Here’s what to watch for from Valera and Noel:
One doesn’t have to scroll far to find Valera’s name in Cleveland’s prospect rankings.
Valera is the No. 2 prospect in the Guardians system, per MLB.com.
In Double-A Akron this season, Valera is slashing .272/.373/.484 with 13 homers and a team-high 52 RBIs.
And the Guardians are hoping Valera is a future big bat in its outfield, per The Athletic:
“His swing has a lot of moving parts, but Valera has good natural rhythm that should allow him to be on time for the best fastballs. . . . His floor is an everyday outfielder. His ceiling is a 30-homer cleanup hitter.”
Valera has experience at all three outfield positions but predominately plays in the corners.
Unless Kwan completely disappears, he’ll be around for some time; he’s shown enough excitement and talent this season to figure into Cleveland’s long-term plans.
George Valera is gonna be a problem. Baseballs are not supposed to go that far when going the other way pic.twitter.com/pX8tYE0Pm4
— Fuzzy (@fuzzyfromyt) June 17, 2022
And Gonzalez was also coming into his own before he went down with an injury, with a .285 average and 35 hits in 32 games.
If the Guardians like both Gonzalez and Kwan, perhaps Valera can be the long-term solution in centerfield, where Myles Straw has consistently failed to perform.
Regardless, no one is going to complain about too much outfield talent.
Especially a crop of players that each brings something different to the table; while Valera could be a future power-hitter, Kwan and Gonzalez make their impact by putting the ball in play and getting on base.
The First (Baseman) Noel
Noel enters the Futures Game the No. 13 prospect in Cleveland’s system.
And while I could check my thesaurus for all sorts of adjectives to describe Noel’s hitting, The Athletic summed it up best:
“Noel’s batting practice session ahead of the Futures Game will be appointment viewing. He might have the most raw power of any of the prospects on either roster . . .”
If Valera is a power-hitter, Noel is a baseball punisher.
So far this season, which has been split between High-A and Double-A, Noel has 25 homers and is slugging a nice .518.
Unfortunately, Noel still has significant concerns in just about every other facet of his game.
His 96 strikeouts this season are alarming.
And while Noel has experience at both first and third, his destiny in the pros is probably at DH.
He’s not the quickest defender, and José Ramirez and Josh Naylor/Owen Miller are likely holding down the corner infield moving forward.
— Guardians Prospective (@CleGuardPro) July 6, 2022
Nonetheless, if he can get those strikeouts down and keep his power up, he might have a clean-up spot down the line.