Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

The Road to The Show™: Guardians' Valera

No. 33 overall prospect finally able to put full talents on display
In a 40-game period this year, George Valera batted .325 with a 1.023 OPS and 11 homers. (David Monseur/Accent Images)
July 12, 2022

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at Guardians No. 2 prospect George Valera. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. Although it’s been five years since he first

Each week, profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at Guardians No. 2 prospect George Valera. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.

Although it’s been five years since he first signed with the Guardians, it was difficult to get a full look at George Valera’s talent until this season.

He entered the year with just about a full season’s worth of plate appearances (599), but through 73 games with Double-A Akron in 2022, Valera has more than lived up to his billing as the No. 33 overall prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The 21-year-old outfielder enters the week batting .273 with an .873 OPS, 13 homers and 51 RBIs. He also has seven outfield assists, showing off one of the more impressive corner outfield arms in the Minors.

There’s a little more muscle and swagger behind the smooth swing that scouts noticed when Valera first hit the academy circuit in the Dominican Republic -- far from where his story begins.

Valera was born in Queens and raised in the Bronx before moving to the Dominican Republic at 13. He was a middle school ringer for New York travel ball clubs before relocating with his family to his parents’ native San Pedro de Macorís.

Valera’s size made it difficult to find an opportunity with a team in the Dominican Republic, but as the legend goes, his father eventually found a coach willing to give him a few batting practice swings despite his smaller stature. Of course, it would cost his father 50 pesos and Valera would have to do it in his school uniform, but it turned out to be a worthy frustration.

"The guy threw me a couple balls and BP and I was a little upset, so I just started hitting a couple of homers in the BP, and then [the coach] was like, you can come practice today if you get changed," Valera told in May.

Valera’s name soon became one worth knowing on the academy scene. His smooth, compact, left-handed stroke, reminiscent of Robinson Cano or Barry Bonds, caught the attention of many Major League clubs, but it was Cleveland that checked in the most. When the signing period opened in July of 2017, Valera -- ranked as the No. 22 international prospect at the time -- signed with Cleveland for $1.3 million.

Now the Guardians' second-ranked prospect, he opened his Minor League career in the Rookie-level Arizona League but suffered a broken hamate bone in his right hand in just his sixth professional game. The season-ending injury allowed him to fulfill a promise made to his mother and graduate from high school upon his return to the Dominican Republic.

Despite his limited experience in Rookie ball and his proximity to the Dominican Summer League, the organization challenged Valera with an assignment to Class A Short Season Mahoning Valley in 2019. Valera hit eight homers and boasted an .802 OPS in 46 games before finishing in full season ball at Lake County.

In the New York-Penn League, Valera admitted that he could sometimes get reckless at the plate and could stand to be more selective. But his opportunities to sort out these issues in games took a major hit when the pandemic wiped out the following Minor League season. Fortunately, the Guardians brought Valera, still just 19 at the time, to their alternate site during the lost season.

"That was a blessing," Valera told "I got the opportunity to meet up with a lot of great guys, a lot of guys that have been in the big leagues like JT Maguire, who helped me a lot on the defensive end of my baseball. I'm super thankful for him, and I take a lot of pride in my defense because of that."

Valera’s performance at the alternate site further endeared him to the organization, especially at a position in which Cleveland has had a difficult time developing in the past.

"Valera is one that immediately jumps out. He's younger by age, but by skill set, he's not quite as young," Indians assistant director of player development Rob Cerfolio told in December 2020. "For a guy who hadn’t played above Short-Season A to jump in with Double-A and Triple-A players, it was an awesome learning experience and he tackled it head on. He fits the mold as an exciting young outfielder in the organization ... where we do lean a little more on the young side."

Valera returned to Lake County, which had become a High-A affiliate, for the start of the 2021 season. He hit a career-best 16 homers, drove in 43 runs and batted .256 with a .978 OPS for the Captains, all of which came in just 63 games as he missed a month with an oblique injury. Valera, who was among the youngest players in the High-A Central at the start of the season, earned a promotion to Akron in August.

He batted .267 with three homers in the RubberDucks’ final 23 regular season games and helped the club to a three-game sweep of their league championship series with six hits and four RBIs over 13 at-bats in the playoffs.

“[He] swings at good pitches,” Guardians vice president of player development James Harris told in November, showing in one sentence how far Valera had come since his 2019 self-assessment. “He's always shown that he can impact the baseball. And this year was no different.”

After a slow start this season, Valera tore the cover off the ball in June. In a 40-game period from May 17 to July 6, the six-foot, 190-pound slugger batted .325 with a 1.023 OPS, 11 homers and 41 RBIs.

Valera’s strikeout rate has hovered around 25 percent in his last three seasons, and he still goes to the pull side nearly half the time he puts the ball in play. But there was an emphasis for him to hit the ball in the air more, which obviously plays to his natural power. And his 41.5 percent ground ball rate this year would be his lowest for a full season.

Valera will be representing the organization at Saturday’s Futures Game at Dodger Stadium. While he may still be on the younger side, he can realistically push toward the Majors as soon as next year. He’s an exciting ballplayer at a position that’s been a point of emphasis for the Guardians at the prospect level.

Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for