Chase DeLauter is Guardians' next slugging outfield hope

Sep. 16—The Guardians farm system churns out pitchers with such precision it is as though Shane Bieber, Triston McKenzie, Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams and Logan Allen were given some secret serum as they climbed through the minors.

But power-hitting outfielders? The same minor league system that does so well with pitchers continually swings and misses on trying to hand the Guardians big boppers in the middle of the lineup.

Maybe Chase DeLauter can change that.

DeLauter, 21, was selected by the Guardians in the first round of the 2022 draft with the 18th overall pick. Foot injuries delayed his pro debut.

DeLauter played 42 games for the Lake County Captains this summer. The Captains' season ended Sept. 10. Mondays are off days in the minor leagues.

On Sept. 12, when Bieber was making a rehab start for the RubberDucks, DeLauter made his debut with the Double-A team in Akron. He went 1-for-4 and walked once. Nothing flashy, but even just standing at the plate, at 6-foot-4, 235 pounds, he looks menacing with a piece of lumber in his hands.

DeLauter played two games since his debut and now has four hits in 12 at-bats with a double, three RBI and two runs scored.

"I'm just trying to get comfortable out there," Delauter said after the Ducks were nipped by the Altoona Curve, 3-2, Sept. 12. "It had been a little over a year since I played, going through all the injuries and stuff. I got out and rolled an ankle and was out another two weeks. But other than that, I feel good. I'm trying to get my good swings off and go from there."

Bradley Zimmer, Clint Frazier, Nolan Jones and Will Benson were all high draft picks by the Indians. All play the outfield and all are no longer with the team.

Jones, a second-round pick by the Guardians in 2016, is hitting .275 with the Colorado Rockies. He has 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 89 games. The Guardians' starting outfield of Steven Kwan, Will Brennan and Myles Straw has combined for 11 home runs in a combined 1,408 at-bats. That works out to one home run for the starting outfield every 128 at-bats.

Benson, a first-round pick by the Guardians in 2016, has played in 94 games with the Reds in 2023. He is hitting .271 with 10 home runs and 27 RBI.

DeLauter didn't exactly knock down the fences at Classic Auto Group Park in Eastlake, but he hit .366 and homered four times while driving in 31 runs in 164 at-bats with the Captains. projects DeLauter making his debut with the Guardians in 2025. He was playing college ball at James Madison University in Virginia when the Guards drafted him. Here is the MLB scouting report on him:

"The 6-foot-4, 235-pound DeLauter offers a rare combination of size, athleticism, plate discipline and performance. His bat speed, strength and leverage combine to give him well above-average raw power to all parts of the ballpark, and he lets his power come naturally with an extremely disciplined approach. Scouts aren't enamored of his tendency to get long with his left-handed swing or to drift onto his front foot, but that hasn't stopped him from making a lot of hard contact."

Delauter batted .402 in three seasons at James Madison. He hit nine home runs in the Cape Cod Summer League to lead the league in 2021.

"DeLauter possesses solid speed and translates it into base stealing ability and center-field range," The MLB scouting report continues. "Some scouts think he's destined for right field, where his plus power and arm strength would fit the classic profile. He delivered low-90s fastballs when he pitched sporadically in college."

Delauter suffered a broken left foot in 2022 at James Madison. He reinjured his foot and needed bone graft surgery in January after signing a $3.75 million contract with the Guardians. But the injuries are behind him.

"I'm extremely excited," Delauter said. "I'm going to hit this offseason hard and try to get better at the things I need to get better at for next year.

"I want to get (to the Guardians) as fast as possible. I'm trying to play my best ball at the level I'm at and I think it will take care of itself from there."

The Guardians hope so, too.