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Akron RubberDucks Announce 2024 Roster

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Cleveland Guardians v. Cincinnati Reds
Photo by Zac BonDurant/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Some initial analysis of the Guardians’ Double-A team here

The Akron RubberDucks have announced their initial roster for 2024.

Catchers: Kody Huff and Micael Ramirez.

Analysis: Huff was acquired in the Cal Quantrill trade and is a defensive specialist. He was the back-up for Cleveland in the Spring Breakout game. Ramirez threw out 35% of would-be basestealers in 2023, but hasn’t shown much offensively since being promoted to full-season ball in 2021.

Infielders: Aaron Bracho, Christian Cairo, Dayan Frias, Joe Naranjo, Milan Tolentino, Yordys Valdes and Kahlil Watson.

Analysis: A former top-10 prospect, Bracho bounced back with a solid season last year and could quickly be promoted to Triple-A. Naranjo struggled in his Double-A debut last year and is repeating at Akron. Valdes, Tolentino and Cairo were second, fourth and fourth round draft picks in 2019 and 2020 and are still trying to stand out. Frias impressed in his age-20 season at High-A Lake County last season at third base.

The real prospect to watch is Khalil Watson, a former first round pick by Miami who was acquired in the Josh Bell trade. Watson is an extremely talented athlete with contact and attitude issues, but is absolutely loaded with potential and has a sky-high ceiling. He impressed with Lake County last year after arrived in the trade.

Outfielders: Chase DeLauter, Petey Halpin, Joe Lampe and Alexfri Planez.

Analysis: It’s no surprise DeLauter is the player to watch here. Many fans legitimately thought he was going to make the Cleveland Guardians roster straight out of Spring Training with how flat out dominant he was, bashing .520/.600/1.040 in 13 games spanning 30 plate appearances. It’s not a matter of if DeLauter makes it to Cleveland but when. Enjoy him in Akron while you can still watch him cheaply.

Halpin and Planez are repeating at Akron after struggling in 2023 for different reasons. Halpin was simply below average with a low BABIP and slightly increased strikeout rate as a 21-year-old. Planez missed nearly the entire season with an injury, playing just seven games. Lampe, a third round pick in 2022, was slightly below average in a full season at High-A Lake County last year, but wasn’t bad enough to repeat there.

Starting Pitchers: LHP Doug Nikhazy, RHP Tommy Mace, LHP Ryan Webb, LHP Rodney Boone, RHP Ross Carver, RHP Jack Leftwich and RHP Ethan Hankins.

Analysis: There are several interesting arms in the rotation. Nikhazy got some shine by being the starting pitcher for Cleveland in the Spring Breakout game, so I’d expect him to be Akron’s Opening Day starter next week. Mace, Webb, Boone and Leftwich joined Nikhazy as 2021 draft picks in the second (comp. balance), fourth, seventh and eighth rounds, respectively. Leftwich and Webb seem to have the highest ceilings of the four, with Leftwich reaching Double-A first before injuries slowed him in 2023 and Webb leading the AFL in strikeouts this past fall.

Carver was acquired from Arizona in the Carlos Vargas trade and did not impress in a full season at Akron last year (6.57 ERA). Hankins was a former first round compensation pick who Cleveland still was trying to keep at starter after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Hankins has the highest ceiling if he can get back to his pre-surgery self.

Bullpen: RHP: Trey Benton, RHP Aaron Davenport, Bradley Hanner, RHP Jordan Jones, RHP Davis Sharpe, RHP Tyler Thornton, RHP Lenny Torres Jr., RHP Bradley Hanner and RHP Andrew Walters.

Analysis: I’m most excited for Andrew Walters out of this group. He was an absolute flamethrower in college and blew away opposing hitters in his Spring Training debut. Despite being drafted in 2023, he’s a legitimate candidate to explode through Cleveland’s minor league system if he can stay healthy, especially with the injury issues in the Guardians bullpen right now.

There was some hype for Sharpe as a potential bullpen prospect before he had a down 2023, so he’s repeating at Double-A for now and could be promoted quickly. Torres Jr. is a former first-round competitive balance pick who was converted to the bullpen after Tommy John surgery. Thornton looked nasty in 2023 (15.99 K/9 at Lake County). Jones, Hanner and Benton both repeat at Double-A after pretty strong seasons there last year. Davenport flamed out as a starting pitcher last year repeating at High-A and could be on a short leash.

Overall Analysis: DeLauter is the prospect to watch by a landslide, but there are several other prospects would could be on the rise if they can bounce back this year like Halpin, Hankins, Planez and Leftwich. Walters could be the first of this crew to reach MLB and keep an eye on intriguing prospects like Nikhazy, Webb, Watkins and Frias.

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