Fifth Core Player for the Cleveland Guardians; Daniel Espino – Pitcher
Yes, I did say most of Cleveland’s high upside pitching prospects were in Double-A or lower, and Daniel Espino is no exception in his age 20 season with High-A Lake County. Espino, the Tribe’s No. 5 prospect according to MLB.com, was a first round pick in 2019 of the Indians and touts arguably the best fastball in the entire farm system. He was drafted as a starter, and has plenty of work to do to keep that role as he climbs up the levels of the minors.
Espino throws his fastball at a blistering 98 MPH, and he definitely has the ability to get swings and misses on it, leading the entire Cleveland farm system with 127 strikeouts in 99.1 innings pitched this season. He’s currently 2-7 with a 3.93 ERA in 17 starts split between Low-A Lynchburg and High-A Lake County.
Command and walks have plagued him early in his minor league career, with a career 1.19 WHIP in 26 total starts. As an encouraging sign, his walk rate has significantly improved since promotion to High-A earlier this season, despite his ERA spiking to 4.64 with the Captains.
If Espino aspires to stay a starter and make the Tribe’s rotation in the future, the command of his breaking stuff and off-speed pitches is paramount. His Slider is grading out well early, and he features a Curveball and a Changeup to round out his repertoire. Even if he doesn’t hang on as a member of the rotation he has very high reliever upside and could be a bullpen anchor, or even a closer for the Guardians for years to come.