Winning by literally just one vote over Gabriel Arias, Daniel Espino is our No. 7 Cleveland prospect for 2021, improving four spots from his No. 11 ranking in 2020.
A Panama native, Espino moved to Georgia his sophomore year of high school, and Cleveland eventually drafted The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder with their first selection in the 2019 MLB draft. At the time, many viewed him as the best high school pitcher in the draft.
Espino didn’t take long to make a quick impression, dominating the Arizona Rookie League in six appearances where he struck out 16 and walked five in 13.2 innings. Espino only gave up seven hits and three earned runs, good for a 1.98 ERA with a 0.88 WHIP.
This earned Espino a promotion to Low-A Mahoning Valley, where he continued to strike opposing hitters out at an alarming rate, although he held a 6.30 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in a small sample size of 10.0 innings over three starts. Overall, Espino’s strikeout rate improved after he was promoted, whiffing 18 batters in those 10.0 innings.
Of note, Espino is the first Indians high school prospect to earn a promotion to Low-A the year they were drafted since ... Francisco Lindor.
Espino features a four-pitch mix with a plus-plus fastball, a slider, a curveball and changeup. The young righty throws both a four-seamer with life and a heavy sinking two-seamer with both variations grading as plus-plus. His fastball sits in the mid to upper 90s and can touch 99 mph. If his off-speed and breaking pitches can catch up to the level of his fastballs, watch out.
Twenty-twenty was supposed to be a year Espino advanced to full-season ball, but with the lost season, he at least got some time to play against the best prospects in the system when he was invited to the expanded roster in Lake County for the summer, where he hopefully gained invaluable experience.
I wouldn’t be shocked to see him stay in Lake County for 2021 since it was bumped to Cleveland’s High-A affiliate.
Gabriel Arias, SS (Age 20)
2019 (A+ San Diego): 511 PA, .302./339/.470, 17 HR, 8 SB, 4.9 BB%, 25.0 K%, 120 wRC+
The top prospect return from the Mike Clevinger trade with San Diego, Arias is a middle infielder with serious pop, although has work to do with his patience at the plate and pitch selection.
Aaron Bracho, 2B (Age 19)
2019 (R): 137 PA, .296/.416/.593, 6 HR, 4 SB, 16.8 BB%, 15.3 K%, 162 wRC+
2019 (A-): 32 PA, .222/.344/.481, 2 HR, 0 SB, 15.6 BB%, 25.0 K%, 141 wRC+
Injury kept him from debuting in 2018, but the DR native made up for it in 2019, rebuilding his hype by posting incredible numbers in the AZL and earning a promotion to Mahoning Valley.
Joey Cantillo, LHP (Age 21)
2019 (A): 19 GS, 98.0 IP, 34.7 K%, 7.3 BB%, 1.93 ERA, 2.15 FIP
2019 (A+): 3 GS, 13.2 IP, 25.4 K%, 11.1 BB%, 4.61 ERA, 4.98 FIP
Former Padres 16th round pick has soared through their system. Possesses stellar control and an elite change up, but doesn’t blow away the radar gun.
Ethan Hankins, RHP (Age 20)
2019 (A-): 8 GS, 38.2 IP, 27.9 K%, 11.7 BB%, 1.40 ERA, 3.22 FIP
2019 (A): 5 GS, 21.1 IP, 29.8 K%, 12.8 BB%, 4.64 ERA, 4.80 FIP
Tops out at 97 mph with strikeout stuff, but command issues and injuries have slowed his development.
Daniel Johnson, OF (Age 25)
2020 (MLB): 13 PA, .083/.154/.083, 0 HR, 0 SB, 7.7 BB%, 38.5 K%, -71 wRC+
Saw a brief cup of coffee in the shortened 2020 season, but other than picking up his first career hit and walk, he didn’t have much to show for it and was sent back to the taxi squad.
Who should be Cleveland’s No. 8 prospect?
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