The Athletic’s Keith Law — a long-time, well-respected front office member and baseball prospects writer — has delivered his highly-anticipated pre-season Top 100 MLB Prospects list (subscriber-only access), and it’s one that includes a handful of New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series alums.
14) Grayson Rodriguez
23) Zac Veen
51) Daniel Espino
91) Mick Abel
97) Drew Romo
GRAYSON RODRIGUEZ (14)
Rodriguez was one of the standouts at the inaugural International Week event in 2017, held in Sugar Land, Texas. He’s since gone on to become universally regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball yet to make his big league debut, the latter of which could change as early as this upcoming season.
Law spotlighted G-Rod’s 40.4% strikeout rate, which was the highest of any pitcher in the full-season minors in 2021.
ZAC VEEN (23)
Veen was a major attraction at both the 2019 National Tournaments with the Scorpions and International Week later that year, and turned in a huge season in the Colorado Rockies farm system at Single-A Fresno, playing alongside fellow FSS alumni Drew Romo and Mateo Gil with the Grizzlies en route to become the top prospect in the organization.
Law likes Veen’s “beautiful left-handed swing,” and says he has an “exciting package of skills on both sides of the ball, even with some swing and miss in his present game, and he won’t even turn 21 until after this upcoming season.”
DANIEL ESPINO (51)
Espino turned in one of the most dazzling performances in the five-year history of International Week/the Main Event back in 2018, striking out eight batters over a nearly spotless three frames, a record that held up until Anthony Solometo recorded nine K’s in 2020 at Fenway Park. The Panama-born righty was a first-round pick of the Guardians back in 2019, and has further developed into their top pitching prospect heading into the 2022 season.
Law projects Espino to be a potential No. 2 starter in the big leagues, saying he’s “pitching more vertically now, going up with the four-seamer (which can touch 100) and staying behind the ball more, resulting in hitters missing the pitch more than they did even in high school. His slider projects to be plus, and has supplanted his curveball as his primary breaking pitch.”
MICK ABEL (91)
After a standout showing at the first-ever National Tournaments back in 2017, Abel became a three-time invitee to International Week — he missed actually pitching in 2019 due to illness, but still made the effort to show up and learn anyway — and emerged as a first-round draft pick for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020. He had a successful pro debut in Low-A Clearwater, and is now considered the top prospect in the Phillies system.
Law says Abel has top-of-the-rotation upside as a true four-pitch guy: “All of his offspeed pitches show you enough now to project them as future plus pitches, with the changeup already there or very close to it.”
DREW ROMO (97)
The Colorado Rockies used their competitive balance pick in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft to select catcher Drew Romo, marking an incredible four first rounders that year who have played at some point for the New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series powered by Program 15.
Romo, who was invited to International Week in 2019 but could not attend, joined Scorpions teammate Veen in the Rockies farm system; both starred for the team at the 2019 National Tournaments in Cypress, Texas.
Law pointed to Romo’s stunning first pro season, handling a full-season assignment in Fresno in 2021 with relative ease. “Romo already has the floor of a quality backup who plays a long time in the majors, but it looks more like he’ll be a regular whom coaches and pitchers love because he contributes in all of the other ways that matter.”
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