MLB Draft Profiles: Daniel Espino, RHP
We’re just a little less than a month away from the 2019 MLB Draft, so as we do every year we’re going to highlight a few prospects that are possibly in discussion to be on the board and drafted by the Houston Astros on June 3rd. This year, the Astros pick 32nd, easily the lowest they’ve picked in the Jeff Luhnow era. Nevertheless, I feel by now that the Astros can find a great player anywhere they pick in the draft. We’ll start this year’s draft profiles with Daniel Espino.
Daniel Espino is an 18 year old prep Right-Handed pitcher from Georgia Premier Academy in Bullock Country, Georgia. He stands 6’2”, 200lbs. Espino moved to the United States from Panama for his Sophomore year of high school and has turned himself into one of top prep players in the country. He is currently committed to LSU
Not much is to be discovered in the way of stats for Espino, much like many prep players, but as far as intangibles go Espino may just be one of the most impressive in the class. Espino possesses one of the best fastballs in the draft. Having come to the states with a fastball in the low 80s, after growing into his frame he now owns one that can run up to triple digits and consistently sits 94-97. His fastball buzzes with life and, thanks to our friend @pitchingninja, we can see just how good his fastball is for a prep pitcher.
Espino put the pitch on display at the Under Armour All American Game last year when he broke Hunter Greene’s game record by having his fastball clocked at 99 mph. Espino is simply an overpowering pitcher at the high school level, and it’s not just because of his fastball.
To go along with his triple digit heater, Espino possesses a wipeout slider and above average curveball that can make even the best hitters look foolish. His slider sits in the low 80s while his curveball a little slower in the high 70s.
His three pitch arsenal makes him one of the more advanced high school arms in the class. In either college or pro ball he’ll be tasked with toning up both his control and command, both of which aren’t bad, but not where they need to be as he steps into a new level of baseball
Espino has a delivery that creates what can be perceived as effortless velocity. His fastball explodes out of his hand and he repeats his delivery well but at times it can look a little high maintenance, but it shouldn’t give him many problems. Because of long arm action many believe his future will be in the bullpen, but should he continue to develop his game and begin to master his control at the next level, his ceiling could be as high as a #2 starter in the Big Leagues.
Round Projection & Signability
Draft picks, especially high school picks, are hard to project since MLB draft picks cannot be traded. Smart money has him coming off the board somewhere in the 20s, but a team could easily fall in love with Espino and draft him in the Top-15. His commitment to LSU and ability to request an above-slot value signing bonus could put him at the back end of the first round or into the compensatory picks to a team with a lot of bonus pool flexibility, much like last year’s picks of Shane McClanahan and Ethan Hankins to the Rays and Indians, respectively. The Astros slot value for pick #32 is $2.3M, give or take a few thousand dollars. Would Espino sign away from LSU for that, or would he want more to forego college baseball? It’s something to keep an eye on.
MLB comp: Jordan Hicks
Hicks and Espino stand at 6’2” and both are around the same weight. They will both light up the scoreboard with triple digit fastballs with life, but keep hitters off balance with a wipeout slider. If Espino’s future is in the bullpen when he gets to the MLB, he could be a game-changing set-up man or a lights out closer. Until then though, teams will look to let him learn how to be an efficient starter, though his potential in the pen may end up being too much to say no to when it’s all said and done.
**Photo Credit: Getty Images**