You may have noticed that Baseball’s America weekly prospect “Hot Sheet” doesn’t look too much different than a New Balance Baseball Future Stars Series pro ball alumni update these days.
Some FSS arms in particular have been making waves, not to mention a handful of position players who are off to hot starts to their respective minor league seasons.
It certainly won’t be long before the Future Stars Series can say they’ve helped produce their first true big league alum. But, who will it be?
DANIEL ESPINO might be a good place to start. The flame-throwing 21-year-old righty turned heads at 2018 International Week with a seven-strikeout performance in which he allowed just one batter to reach base, and continues to make big strides towards the big leagues. Taken with the 24th overall pick one year later by the-then Indians, the Panamanian-born Espino struck out 14 batters for the Double-A Akron RubberDucks this past week. He’s now 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in his first three starts, and has a whopping 30 K’s in 13.2 IP.
GRAYSON RODRIGUEZ is the consensus choice to become the FSS’ first big leaguer, however, and he’s done little to dispel that notion early on this year. Regarded as the top pitching prospect in baseball — a crown that many thing may go to Espino once Rodriguez graduates to the big leagues — the latter has posted a minuscule 0.49 WHIP in his first three outings with the Triple-A Norfolk Tides this year, not allowing any more than three hits in any start. Rodriguez pitched for the National Team at International Week in 2017.
MARCO RAYA has finally made his pro debut after being drafted by the Minnesota Twins back in 2020, but has proven to be worth the wait. Having entered the season as the Twins’ no. 30 prospect according to BA, that stock has already risen with two solid starts for Low-A affiliate in Fort Myers, including his latest in which he struck out ten batters and allowed just one hit in six scoreless innings. Raya got the ball at Fenway Park for the National Team at International Week in 2019.
MICK ABEL earned his first win at the High-A level this past week, spinning five innings of scoreless ball on April 23 for the Jersey Shore BlueClaws, allowing just one walk and three hits while striking out nine. The Future Stars Series was on hand for his outing prior to that, where he flashed a 94-98 MPH fastball and command of a plus slider and solid changeup. Abel is a three-time International Week participant, having pitched in 2017 and 2018, and he was on the roster in 2019, but was unable to participate due to illness.
ZAC VEEN is considered the top prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization — with fellow FSS alum DREW ROMO not far behind — and for good reason. Making his debut at the High-A level with Spokane this year, the 20-year-old slugger is off to a hot start, batting .281 with a homer and five RBI thus far. Veen hit just the second home run in International Week history in 2019 as a member of the National Team, and starred on a loaded Scorpions team at the national tournaments before that, sharing the spotlight with MICHAEL BROOKS, DYLAN CREWS, Romo and others.
JOSE TORRES was one of the standouts on US Elite at the 2018 national tournaments, and has done nothing but hit since then, whether that be at North Carolina State or for the Cincinnati Reds organization, who drafted him in the third round last year. The 22-year-old is hitting .308 with three homers and seven RBI for High-A Dayton, and seems poised for a quick promotion to the next level.
BO NAYLOR has turned things around after an up-and-down campaign at the Double-A level last year, and has been lauded both for his work with the bat and behind the plate, where he’s worked with Espino and others in stellar fashion. The 22-year-old first-rounder in 2018, who was the center of attention with the World Team at International Week in 2017, went 2-for-4 with a homer and two RBI in the same game that Espino struck out 14, which he was behind the dish for.
RICKY TIEDEMANN was a steal for the Toronto Blue Jays at 91st overall last year, but anyone who saw him at International Week with the National Team in 2019 or as recently as the Future Stars Series Pre-Draft Combine in 2021 would know this. Or, you could simply look at what he’s done in his pro debut this year with Low-A Dunedin, posting a 2-0 record and 1.20 ERA in his first three outings, striking out 24 batters in just 15 innings of work.
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