Cleveland Guardians top prospect Daniel Espino is on the mend and looking good

Daniel Espino remains a top pitching prospect for the Cleveland Guardians. Now he just has to stay healthy to show what makes him such an important piece of the team's future.

Akron RubberDucks pitcher Daniel Espino warms up between innings against the Erie SeaWolves at UPMC
Akron RubberDucks pitcher Daniel Espino warms up between innings against the Erie SeaWolves at UPMC / GREG WOHLFORD/ERIE TIMES-NEWS / USA

There’s one prospect trying his best to come up through the Cleveland Guardians’ minor-league system, a guy new manager Stephen Vogt called a “specimen.”

Daniel Espino had all the hype coming into the system after getting selected 24th overall in the 2019 MLB draft out of high school. He ended the 2020 season as the No. 5 prospect in the Guardians' system, even after going 0-3 with a 3.80 ERA and 34 strikeouts through nine games between the AZL Indians and Mahoning Valley Scrappers.

But since then, much of the once-hyped prospect’s professional career has been tattered with injury after pandemic-lost season after injury. 

And once again, as he enters this year's spring training, Espino is looking for one simple thing: just get on the mound and pitch. Currently rehabbing from a shoulder injury he underwent last May, Espino, now ranked as the team’s No. 3 prospect, is trying to come back from a third-straight lost season. 

At his peak, Espino was rated as the Guardians No. 1 overall prospect and the No. 14 prospect in baseball following the 2021 season. His dynamic fastball that gave him much of the stardom topped out at 103 mph, while his slider could reach the mid-80s and his sweeper was topping out at 93 mph. He was blowing through opposing hitters at Lynchburg and Lake County before sustaining patellar tendinitis in April of 2022. Through his recovery, he sustained a shoulder injury. Toward the end of his recovery process last year, his shoulder once again flared up, and the Guardians opted for season-ending surgery with a 12-14 month recovery timeline. 

When Will Daniel Espino Return in 2024?

There currently isn’t a concrete timeline for when Espino will return to the mound, likely with the rookie-level Guardians, but fans might be able to see him back in action in July. After watching him pitch in practice earlier this week, Vogt said, “Oh, it was so fun. He’s looking good... just knowing how hard he’s worked to get to this point. He’s progressing really, really well.” 

When healthy, Espino has struck out 221 batters through 133.2 innings on the mound, posting a 1.06 WHIP and holding opposing batters to a .184 average. There’s plenty of concern regarding a young, flame-throwing starter whose shoulder has given him a multitude of problems early in his career, but if he can put together a healthy comeback and impress in his limited action this season, he’ll be right on track to break into the big leagues to start 2025.