Pitching at the Major League level is fundamentally changing. Traditional six- and seven-inning starting pitchers are fading away, giving way to openers, situational arms, and general “out-getters”. From a much broader scope, organizations are focusing on re-shaping how they plan on getting 27 outs. Conventional starting pitching is dying.
Jesuit High School (Tigard, Or.) starting pitcher McLean “Mick” Abel figures to dispel that notion.
Abel is the prototypical top-of-the-rotation horse that projects to go deep into ballgames. At 6-foot-5, he’s an imposing force on the mound. Abel is committed to Oregon State University, but certainly has the repertoire and upside to be a Top 10, if not Top 5 pick in the 2020 draft. The whole package may be too intriguing for Seattle to pass up.
Just 18 years old, Abel has the full arsenal at his disposal. His fastball already sits comfortably 94-97 with good deception. His delivery and 3⁄4 arm slot has similarities to that of Stephen Strasburg. The mechanics are sound, repeatable, and as far as high school arms go, fairly low-risk in terms of future durability. He’s an extremely projectable pitcher with massive upside.
The fastball is already a 60-grade offering, but it’s easy to foresee that improving with a little added weight/velocity. His natural arm slot screams arm-side tail, and he’s just recently begun experimenting with a new sinker-esque grip to achieve that run. The command has shown to be advanced at times, but has wavered on occasional starts. While pitching with Team USA in 2019, Abel really struggled to find his release point, allowing three walks and seven hits in just over four innings of work. Still, I’d expect the pitch remain plus or better by the time he’s ready to make his big league debut.
Mick Abel, 94mph Sinker movement. pic.twitter.com/XN71bIFuM6— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 15, 2019
While the fastball is good, many feel the slider is already a more advanced pitch. He’s got great feel for the breaking ball. It disappears late with great lateral break. Abel can comfortably throw it for strikes. It, too, projects as a plus pitch at the big league level.
Mick Abel, 87mph Slider and 94mph Sinker, Overlay [From the @PerfectGameUSA All American Game] @Mickabel13 pic.twitter.com/CTLirMLeUZ— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 15, 2019
Abel also offers a changeup and curveball, and while the changeup is ahead of the bender, both show promise of above average offerings.
Mick Abel showing why he's among the best 2020 #MLBDraft prospects as he struck out the side in the first inning of the High School @AllStarGame. LIVE: https://t.co/T8dFOKMG2e pic.twitter.com/yZQnzKwCal— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) July 6, 2019
At 6-foot-5 with good mechanics, a repeatable delivery, and a strong four-pitch armament, Abel has some of the highest upside in the entire draft.
“He’s a future 1, 2 at worst, and I’d be stunned if he’s not,” one MLB area scout said. “As put together as they come.”
I’ve had the pleasure of watching Abel pitch in-person on two separate occasions, once against South Salem, the other vs. Central Catholic. In both cases, I walked away feeling as though he was the most polished high school arm I’ve ever seen. In fourteen innings of work, I watched Abel strikeout 22 batters and allow just 4 hits. He walked one batter and allowed one unearned run along the way.
Being a local kid, Abel is going to get a lot of long, hard looks from Jerry Dipoto and company leading up to the June draft. With four Top 100 selections, Seattle will assuredly have more than enough money in their bonus pool to entice Abel away from going to college.
If Seattle elects to go with a prep arm, Abel will certainly be in the running. Big-bodied Texas prepster Jared Kelley, as well as Pennsylvania stud Nick Bitsko will be considered. Still, for my money, Abel has the biggest ceiling of any high school arm in the draft. He’s already familiar with the Mariners and damp, cool weather baseball, which shouldn’t be ignored.
The 2020 draft figures to be one of the deepest in recent memory, and Abel represents one of the premier talents that figures to be available to Seattle with the sixth pick.