PROSPECT SPOTLIGHT: Chase DeLauter, OF, Cleveland Guardians
DeLauter is a large-framed left-handed hitter at 6’4” and 235 lbs and looks every inch of the part on film. Despite playing college ball at small school James Madison, DeLauter burst onto the prospect scene during the 2021 Cape Code league hitting 9 home runs with more walks than strikeouts and a .986 OPS with a wooden bat. He carried that performance into 2022 where he raked in 24 games with a triple slash of .437/.576/.828 (yes, nearly a .400 ISO). Heading into the draft it was nearly a certainty DeLauter would be a first-round pick, ranked 18th best prospect available in the draft by MLB Pipeline, and 14th best by Prospects Live. He ultimately went 16th overall to the Cleveland Guardians.
DeLauter begins his stance quiet and upright, hands behind his ear, feet shoulder-width apart and close to the pitcher. He moves his weight forward early in his swing with minimal head movement and often ends up on his front foot on contact and at times earlier. The bat sweeps through the zone and is often in a good position to make contact, with average bat speed and plenty of force behind it. The swing can get long at times, and some feel will cause difficulty for Chase against more polished pitching. Chase looks most comfortable pulling his hands in and driving inside pitches and tends to pull the ball far more often than using the opposite field. Chase has the profile of someone who would benefit from the shift ban, as his hit tool should result in more contact than the average power hitter, but will see many balls hit to the right side.
Chase’s approach at the plate is clearly to hit the ball hard first and foremost, but not at the expense of swinging wildly. In fact, throughout his college career, DeLauter ended with more walks than strikeouts each year except his freshman season, when he had one more strikeout than walk. This is impressive given his large frame and large target magnified by a mostly upright batting stance. He’s patient at the plate and doesn’t often swing at bad pitches down and out of the zone. He can be beaten up in the zone with plus velocity but has also shown the ability to catch up with them when his timing is right. Overall this is not a profile that will give up many at-bats. He’s looking to work the count into his favor with an eye on getting his plus power into the game.
Clearly the calling card of DeLauter’s game, Chase uses his large frame to his advantage attacking his pitch and looking to work the count to his favor so he can do damage with the bat. His big body is fully matured and shows strength throughout both the upper and lower half. This is a player who does not have to sell out for power to hit the ball hard. A negative note is Chase does not seem to use the entire field, stays pull side for power, and is able to go to center field at times but rarely drives the ball the other way, even in batting practice. Despite this is easy to project plus power from him, and possibly more.
Currently has above-average speed but it’s safe to be concerned he’ll slow down as he matures given his big frame. That’s really just a concern at this point as he uses his speed in the game and is quite athletic, so slowing down in his early 20s is by no means a given. Look for double-digit steals or more early in his career, and even if he slows down Chase should still run more than most players his size.
DeLauter has the tools to be a plus outfielder, with good speed and a strong arm, but hasn’t maximized his play on the defensive side of the ball. He’s reliable, but not exceptional, meaning he’s most likely to hold down a corner outfield spot but center field might be a stretch.
If things break right, DeLauter transitions well to pro ball, his hit tool plays plus and he crushes the minors moving quickly to the major leagues. If things don’t go well, means he’s likely having trouble reaching elite velocity, and hitting same-side pitching, looking great at times but generally being managed out of big moments of games. It’s easy to tag a 5-tool talent moniker on Chase but his ability to hit will decide the level of success he has in pro ball. On one hand, I see a rising star, but on another, I could see him becoming the strong side of a platoon. He won’t make his pro debut until 2023, after breaking his foot in April so we’ll get the first early indication of where he’s headed this year.
Raw Power: 60
Game Power: 55