What was once feared for Daniel Espino has now become reality. Espino's shoulder injury which shut him down earlier this season was deemed to require surgery. The surgery was completed Tuesday according to reports and is expected to sideline Espino for 12-14 months.
This is just the latest setback for Espino as he has attemped to work his way through the minor league system. Espino missed most of last season due to a shoulder injury. This injury was reported after Espino was already shut down due to patellar tendinitis.
When Espino has actually been able to pitch he has been impressive. Through 133.2 innings dating back to 2019, Espino has struck out 221 batters for a strikeout per nine rate of 14.9. The problem is the gaps between actually pitching in games. Espino did not pitch in 2020 due to the minor leagues being shut down and is now a year or more away from pitching for the first time since April 2022.
Espino is considered one of the top pitching prospects in all of baseball, checking in as the 14th overall prospect on MLB's Top 100 list. There are three other pitchers ahead of Espino on this list, including one currently pitching for their big league club (Grayson Rodriguez). Two position players ahead of Espino have also made their way to the majors in Anthony Volpe and Francisco Alvarez.
As far as Guardians prospects are concered, Espino is ranked as the top prospect in Cleveland's system, but this is not surprising considering his rank among all MLB prospects. Two pitchers who were ranked lower than Espino in Tanner Bibee and Logan Allen have made their debuts, seemingly cementing their spot in the Guardians rotation in the process. One would think that if Espino has not missed the time he has that his chance could have come already.
With two years lost due to injuries, exaclty what Espino can be when and if he makes his way to Cleveland has become a cause for concern. It is not a question of talent, Espino clearly has tons of it. This has become a question of durability and availability, two areas that no team wants any sort of uncertainty regarding their players. If things do not change in these two particular areas, Espino could very well be another what could have been type of player.