Daniel Espino Is a Unicorn (Plus a Handful of Adjustments on The Board)

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Present work on the team-by-team prospect lists is being complemented by a lot of reside seems in Arizona as we work on the West Valley cluster of groups (Reds/Guardians/Dodgers/White Sox), so the information in these lists is recent out of the oven. As I’ve been concentrating on groups with West Valley services who come east and talked to scouts on my facet of city, some gamers have popped up this spring from golf equipment whose prospect lists we’ve already finished, and I’m not losing time including them to their org lists simply because others aren’t completed. These adjustments are famous beneath some notes on Daniel Espino and are indicated on The Board’s “Development” column, as they’re the one gamers to have “up” arrows at this stage.

On Saturday in Goodyear, I noticed a few of the most spectacular stuff I’ve ever seen from a pitching prospect rocketing out of the hand of Espino, a 21-year-old Cleveland righty. By way of my very own in-person seems, his stuff over about three innings of labor in a minor league spring sport towards Cincinnati — the Reds’ record shall be subsequent out the door right here, by the best way — ranked up there in sheer energy and dominance with what I noticed from Gerrit Cole within the 2011 Fall League, Stephen Strasburg’s first residence begin at Double-A Harrisburg (which was so closely attended that the stadium bought out of meals and suffered a brownout), and (hesitates to kind the next) a Jacob deGrom begin in Arizona final 12 months. It was ridiculous sufficient that I felt compelled to maneuver Espino up on the High 100 — extra on the place and why in a minute — and write about him instantly.

Espino sat 98–100 mph for 3 innings, and whereas I used to be usually too busy stuffing my eyeballs again into my cranium to notice the vertical motion on every pitch, a number of of his fastballs had between 20–23 inches of vertical break. His arm slot has modified since highschool and is now extra vertically oriented than earlier than, serving to create this sort of keep on his heater:

It took Espino about midway via his second batter to search out really feel for his fastball, and after that he had no points commanding it to both facet of the plate, blowing it proper previous many of the hitters he confronted, together with Reds catcher Matheu Nelson, who led the NCAA in homers final 12 months. Extra placing than the rate itself is the benefit with which Espino generates it. Whilst he has grow to be an increasing number of muscular getting into his twenties, he has maintained a freaky stage of flexibility, which a Cleveland entrance workplace member advised me he attained by stretching 4 instances per day. These items assist Espino attain and preserve an elite stage of velocity.

Within the context of this look (which was simply three innings early within the 12 months coming off a number of weeks of relative relaxation), seeing elite velocity from Espino isn’t all that stunning; most of his 2021 fastballs have been within the 96–98 mph vary, in spite of everything. What was most spectacular and considerably shocking was the depth and high quality of his repertoire, as each his curveball and changeup, which he used a mixed 7% of the time in 2021, flashed plus. His slider, in the meantime, bent in between 92–94 mph and had late, two-plane end. It will be an above-average pitch have been it merely within the low-to-mid-80s, however at this velocity, this can be a 70-grade weapon, and Espino has constant really feel for finding it down and to his glove facet. His curveball has 12–6 form and plus depth and energy, used throughout this look as a method of garnering known as strikes. It has sufficient depth to have bat-missing utility beneath the zone and generate floor balls even when hitters determine it out in mid-air. He solely threw a number of changeups, all within the 90–92 mph vary, however once more I used to be struck by his really feel for finding these in an space that was attractive to hitters. This pitch has bat-missing motion as nicely:

Espino is bucking tendencies. The latest monitor report of highschool pitching prospects, particularly those that are already bodily large and throwing very laborious earlier than their draft, isn’t good. He has been a exercise warrior for years and was already sitting within the mid-to-upper-90s for lengthy stretches throughout highschool; I in contrast Espino to Brady Quinn on the time, fearful he was getting too large too quick and was liable to stiffen up, and he’s even greater and stronger now. However the word about his flexibility and drive to take care of it’s a separator. On high of that, he has had little or no in the best way of health-related hiccups or velocity swoons and has carried out at a excessive stage on paper amid adjustments to his supply (his arm motion has additionally been shortened since highschool).

I’m at a degree the place I believe Espino is a unicorn of types, and I’m completely shopping for into his capability to look constantly like he did on Saturday. What would the thrill round him be like if we have been speaking a couple of 21-year-old sitting 99 with 4 potential plus pitches at Vanderbilt, and a few of his sliders had been GIF’d? His stuff is comfortably higher than Jack Leiter’s, and his command is simply too, and he’s additional alongside the minor league ladder. His velocity and monitor report of well being are higher than these of latest No. 1 decide Casey Mize. In a typical draft, a university pitcher like Espino could be the heavy, heavy favourite to go first total.

So the place does he match on the common prospect continuum? His repertoire is similar to that of Shane Baz, who has reached the majors however who additionally just lately had an arthroscopic elbow surgical procedure, and they also’re now stacked collectively on the Top 100. A part of this terrifies me, as Espino is probably nonetheless a few years from the massive leagues, leaving loads of time for issues to go mistaken as they’ve with so many pitching prospects earlier than him. He doesn’t should be added to the Guardians’ 40-man roster till after the 2023 season, and Cleveland has tended to deal with prospect promotions in ways in which maximize the size of staff management relatively than contemplating MLB readiness as the first driver — a method enacted in response to budgetary restrictions imposed by possession. But when the Guardians are within the thick of the Central race in July or August and Espino continues to appear to be he did on Saturday, he’s going to drive the problem.

Past that, I’ve made two little tweaks to the High 100. Josh Jung falls behind Corbin Carroll and CJ Abrams, two different star-level skills who’re additional alongside in restoration from shoulder accidents (Jung had surgical procedure shortly after the High 100 initially went reside). His FV hasn’t modified, although. The identical is true of Dodgers righty Bobby Miller, who has been sitting 99–102 this spring with a plus slider and changeup and strikes as much as 59th. He and Marlins righty Max Meyer (who are actually again to again on the High 100) really feel like the 2 pitchers of their mid-20s who would possibly discover their method into the 55 FV tier inside a number of weeks on account of a mix of stuff and proximity to the massive leagues.

I additionally made a few additions to the Giants record: Ian Villers, Julio Rodriguez, and Mat Olsen. They’re three of some San Francisco pitchers who’ve had velo spikes upon entry to camp, and on whom I’ve sufficient background — Rodriguez has been on the advanced for some time, Villers went to Cal, Olsen to Central Arizona — to know they’ve modified. Their full scouting stories are actually on the Giants list over on The Board. Apologies additionally to our editorial employees, which now has to take care of one other Mat Olsen and Julio Rodriguez.

In different information, Rockies righty Riley Pint has unretired and been nails on the backfields. Accidents (indirect, forearm, shoulder) and wildness have made it troublesome for the previous top-five decide to develop in any respect, and he briefly retired earlier than returning to the sphere for 2022 minor league spring coaching. He nonetheless has tantalizing stuff, sitting 95–98 with a bevy of plus-flashing secondaries, together with a slider within the 88–91 mph vary and an upper-80s changeup. There’s an excessive amount of expertise right here to disregard fully and particularly explosive upside if Pint will get a change of surroundings.

Talking of the Rockies, the little second baseman who they traded to Toronto as a part of the Randal Grichuk deal, Adrian Pinto, has been added to the Blue Jays record. Scouts had a slim window during which to scout him right here in Arizona earlier than the deal, however he made sufficient of an impression to immediate some unsolicited texts from scouts masking the Rockies who famous he was lacking from their org record. Rather more on him here, or over on The Board.


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