Guardians Promote Top Infield Prospect Brayan Rocchio

The Guardians are calling up top infield prospect Brayan Rocchio, reports Daniel Álvarez Montes of El Extra Base (Twitter link). He’ll be in Detroit for today’s game, though it’s worth noting that Rocchio is not in the team’s starting lineup that was just released minutes after the report. Gabriel Arias is starting at shortstop, as Amed Rosario has been sidelined the past few games due to back troubles. Speculatively speaking, Rocchio would be a sensible addition if an IL stint has been deemed necessary for Rosario, particularly since Rocchio is already on the 40-man roster.

Rocchio, 22, signed as an amateur out of Venezuela at 16 and has steadily risen through Cleveland’s system while drawing a good bit of fanfare for his hit tool and defensive skill set. He currently ranks as the game’s No. 54 prospect at FanGraphs, No. 69 at and No. 74 at Baseball America. The Athletic’s Keith Law ranked Rocchio as high as No. 22 in all of baseball prior to the start of the 2023 season, touting him as a potentially above-average defender at shortstop with a good hit tool and enough power to pop 15 to 20 home runs per season.

Rocchio had a strong showing in Double-A Akron in 2022, batting .265/.349/.432 with 13 home runs in 432 plate appearances. That earned him a promotion to Triple-A late in the season. Then 21 years of age and facing much more advanced competition, Rocchio posted a tepid .234/.298/.387 slash in 152 trips to the plate down the stretch in Columbus.

The 2023 season has gotten out to a much better start, however. Rocchio has appeared in 15 games, taken 70 turns at the dish and turned in a stout .344/.414/.459 with nearly as many walks (eight) as strikeouts (nine). He’s up to a total of 222 Triple-A plate appearances with just a 13.5% strikeout rate dating back to last year, displaying the bat-to-ball skills that have helped make him a touted prospect and that have come to be a hallmark of the Cleveland organization in recent seasons.

Cleveland has a crowded middle infield mix, with Rosario locked in at shortstop and Andres Gimenez entrenched at second base. Rosario is a free agent following the season, which could pave the way for a potential move of the recently extended Gimenez back to his natural shortstop, but regardless of Gimenez’s alignment, the Guardians have a wealth of options should Rosario sign elsewhere this offseason. Beyond Rocchio and the aforementioned Arias, the Guardians also have well-regarded young players in Tyler Freeman, Jose Tena and Angel Martinez, each of whom has reached at least Double-A. (Freeman is currently on the big league roster.)

That’ll lead to some long-term questions, but in present day, it seems unlikely Rocchio would be brought to the big leagues and not get into the lineup on a semi-regular basis. His absence from today’s lineup could merely stem from the fact that the Guardians have a day game and he needs to travel to join the team. But given his prospect status and long-term potential with the club, there’d be little sense in bringing him to the big leagues for a limited role when he could be building on his otherwise minimal experience in Triple-A. The exact form and shape of Rocchio’s playing time with the Major League club will become clearer once the team formally announces his promotion and the corresponding move to get him onto the 26-man roster.