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Breakout prospect Chase DeLauter may be the power hitter the Guardians are looking for

Chase DeLauter is selected with the 16th pick of the 2022 MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Los Angeles.
Jae C. Hong
/
AP
Chase DeLauter was selected with the 16th pick of the 2022 MLB baseball draft, Sunday, July 17, 2022, in Los Angeles.

With the Guardians looking to the future and in need of power, Ideastream Public Media’s sports commentator Terry Pluto believes the team has a future star in Chase DeLauter, a top draft pick who's turning heads with the Lake County Captains.

“(The Guardians) always find pitchers in the farm system. Well it’s time they found some hitters, and I decided to go look for one at Lake County,” Pluto said.

Cleveland selected DeLauter with the 16th overall pick in the 2002 draft, but Pluto said he overlooked the outfielder who had undergone two foot surgeries.

“All I remember during the draft was he went to James Madison University, which is in Harrisonburg, Virginia, not a big-time baseball school. Number two, when they picked him, he had a broken foot,” Pluto said.

Then, Pluto said he got word that DeLauter, 21, was starting to play for the High-A Lake County Captains this season.

“So finally, by this weekend, I'm looking -- he's batting .382. I'm like, I have to go see it,” Pluto said.

For context, Pluto said nobody in the farm system is hitting above .300 and the average hitter bats .240.

Chase DeLauter swings at a pitch.
James Madison University Athletics
West Virginia native Chase DeLauter played outfield for James Madison University.

So, Pluto went to Eastlake to watch DeLauter play.

“The first thing that struck me, he's 6-foot-4, 235 (pounds) at the age of 21, and he's playing center field. His swing is a bit odd. He calls it a scissor swing. His front foot is up on his toe and he kind of moves his back foot. But it's short and compact. And I hardly saw him swing and miss. I think he got one hit, but he hit the ball hard like three times,” Pluto said.

Pluto said DeLauter has an underdog backstory.

“He's the player of the year in high school in West Virginia. The only place that offers him a Division I scholarship is James Madison. Then, after his second season, there's a thing called the Cape Cod League that plays in the summer,” Pluto said.

Pluto said that league uses wooden bats like in the pros, as opposed to metal bats used in college.

“So, Chase goes out to the Cape Cod League, and he leads the league in home runs with the wooden bat,” Pluto said.

Pluto said scouts started to notice.

“He's now on everybody's top 20,” he said.

The Guardians signed him for a whopping $3.75 million.

“Sometimes these number one draft picks that get all the money, they sort of act like they walk on water, baseball water…The players seem to like him, and, to me, he's a legit prospect. He's an outfielder who could play right field with a strong arm. And he has a quiet confidence about him. I mean, he's the kind of player that I think fans would really gravitate to if he becomes really good.”

Pluto said it’s likely DeLauter will play at Double-A Akron next season.

Amanda Rabinowitz is the host of “All Things Considered” on Ideastream Public Media.