Spring training is a time for optimism. Unfortunately, spring training is also a time for injuries, and the Cleveland Guardians were hit with a double whammy of bad injury news involving two of their top prospects Monday.
Right-hander Daniel Espino, the team’s No. 1 prospect, will be shut down at least eight weeks with a shoulder strain, according to The Athletic. He missed most of last season with knee and shoulder problems. Also, outfielder and 2022 first-round draft pick Chase DeLauter will miss 4-5 months after having surgery to repair a fracture in his foot. He had the same injury last year.
As noted, Espino is Cleveland’s No. 1 prospect per our R.J. Anderson. Here’s what he wrote about Espino last month:
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.
Needless to say, the just turned 22-year-old having more shoulder trouble is worrisome. Between injuries and the pandemic, Espino has thrown only 133 career innings since being the No. 24 pick in the 2019. He is supremely talented — talented enough to be the top pitching prospect in baseball — though ongoing concerns about his durability continue to be founded.
As for DeLauter, the No. 16 pick in the 2022 draft was limited to 469 college plate appearances from 2020-22 by injuries and the pandemic, and now he’ll miss a big chunk of time this season. Baseball America recently ranked him Cleveland’s No. 9 prospect and said he “will likely need a bit more developmental time, but as less of a finished product, there’s room for more growth and plenty of upside.”
The Guardians went 92-70 and won the AL Central last year, though they eventually lost the ALDS in five games to the Yankees. As a small-payroll team — Sportrac estimates Cleveland’s payroll at $75.01 million, sixth-lowest in baseball — they need a steady pipeline of young talent to remain competitive. The Espino and DeLauter injuries are bad news for an organization that relies on its farm system heavily.