VERO BEACH, FL- Daniel Espino has been labeled by some as the best arm in the 2019 Draft. Evaluators drool over his supreme athleticism and electric repertoire that includes a fastball that reaches triple digits. After an offseason where he added 15 pounds of muscle, Espino took the mound for the first time competitively in 2019 on Sunday.
Espino finished Sunday afternoon tossing three innings, and recording all nine outs via the strikeout. He utterly over matched hitters during the outing, using his sizzling fastball that sat 92-95, touching 96. The heater showed good run and sink. He used a wipe out slider at 81-83 as the primary pitch to put batters away. The slider was very tight with good two-plane break. He also flashed a double-plus curve in the mid 70’s as well as a change in the low 80’s. It is extremely rare for a prep pitcher to have this kind of arsenal, featuring four pitches that all look to eventually grade at or above Major League average, with the fastball, slider, and curveball already showing plus.
Espino is an exceptional athlete with strength throughout, especially in the legs. He repeats his delivery well, which is low effort and ultra-athletic, showing outstanding flexibility. The delivery uses his legs very well. Espino has a knee-to-chest leg kick with excellent balance on his back foot. He then drops and drives to deliver. The arm is quick with a very long swing prior to a 3/4 release. Espino gets good extension and ends the delivery with a high back leg drive.
Watch the video below to see his 2019 debut in action.
Daniel on His Outing
I was able to ask Espino a few questions following his start. When I asked how he felt during the outing, Daniel replied, “I felt good and it was good to be back out with my teammates. I missed being out there competing and playing the game.” I took notice during his appearance that he looked to use the slider as his put away pitch. “I feel like I can throw the slider in whatever count,” Daniel commented. He also mentioned how his slider works well off of his heater due to the tunneling of the pitch coming out of his hand looking like a fastball. He is also very comfortable throwing his curve and change.
Leaving Panama and an Average Day at the Academy
Our Ralph Lifshitz was recently able to speak with Gene Reynolds, Espino’s coach and the Director of Operations at Georgia Premier Academy. He was gracious enough to talk to us about Daniel and give some insight.
At age 11, Daniel first left his native Panama to go to Florida. While in the Sunshine State, he played baseball and went to school. He later moved back to Panama where he lived for three more years. The desire to return to the United States never left him. At age 15, Daniel returned to the States and joined Georgia Premier Academy, where he has trained since. At arrival, he weighed in at 153 pounds. Following lots of hard work and discipline, he has grown and added 60 pounds to his athletic frame.
At the Georgia Premier Academy in Statesboro, Georgia, Espino trains to harness his talents. The Academy has also produced Chavez Young, a breakout outfield prospect for the Blue Jays. Espino has gained noticeable muscle since last summer. When I asked Daniel about this appeared gain in muscle, he said that he ended the summer of 2018 at 198 pounds with the goal of bulking up 10-15 pounds in order to keep his body strong for the entirety of the season. He achieved this goal, now weighing in at 213.
An average day at the Academy starts with a very extensive stretch followed by a band routine and long toss. Next, he works a flat ground to focus on his delivery and the release point of all four pitches. This is followed by PFP, pick off work, and pitching drills that focus on his lower half. He then heads over to lift weights, run, and do speed, agility and core work. To cap off the day, Espino does another extensive stretch.
Espino is currently projected as a potential top 10 selection in June. The four-pitch mix, stuff, and athleticism leave scouts dreaming. One thing is for sure; all eyes will be on Espino this spring.