As he gets closer to MLB, Mick Abel reflects on time with Future Stars Series

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — Mick Abel has come a long way.

Having not even turned 16 years old, he was the youngest player at the inaugural New Balance Baseball Future Stars International Week event in Sugar Land, Texas back in 2017, and a combination of inexperience and the Oregon native ultimately being overcome by the heat had him issue seven walks, an event record that still stands even under the new Main Event moniker.

Although he certainly could have done without pitching in those blistering conditions, it turns out going through something like that was actually critical to his development.

“I went into Sugar Land knowing I was really young,” Abel told

“I was like, ‘I shouldn’t be here,” I don’t even know if I’d turned 16 yet with a bunch of seniors. But, I got to be with guys like Grayson Rodriguez and obviously to see him be where he’s at now, it’s awesome. It motivated me a lot too, and it helped push me to understand who I need to become if I want to be successful. It provided me with a role model sense, and gave me a barometer for how hard I have to work to get to the top.”

The top? That’s pretty damn close to where the now-21-year-old righty is now, quickly emerging as one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball after the Philadelphia Phillies took him with the No. 15 pick in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft. He’s quickly moved up the ranks in their system, and after a late-season promotion to Double-A Reading last year, returned there this season, where he’s coming off one of his best starts of the year against the prospect-laden Somerset Patriots, where he didn’t allow an earned run in five innings of work.

Abel flashed a fastball that touched 99 MPH multiple times against the Yankees affiliate, largely holding them off the scoresheet despite not necessarily having his best stuff, struggling early to locate a plus-slider.

“I think the biggest emphasis for me is keeping a consistent slider,” he said. “That’s my best pitch, and I think it’s kind of gotten away from me a little bit at times. I’m getting to a point where it’s becoming consistent, and sure I’m going to have the days where it’s not going to be as great, but it’s how I execute the other pitches that kind of even it out. Understanding when I have to make the adjustment or understanding when it’s good, that’s when I have to find the stuff.”

Abel has a 2-2 record with a 4.50 ERA in his first seven starts of 2023, with 32 strikeouts in just 30 innings pitched, and knows he has to be patient in waiting for that call to the next level, saying his focus is to play the cards he’s dealt, knowing that he’s the one who ultimately decides how his performances go.

Making that approach easier is how he handles things off the field as well, saying it’s been “fairly easy” to deal with all the attention that’s come with having developed into one of the game’s top prospects.

“It’s been easy for me to block stuff out, I think I kind of grew up that way too, where my parents and the people I kept close around me, they were like, ‘All right, let’s keep a small circle, let’s trust the people we trust and go from there,'” Abel said That kind of goes into the whole media side, or off the field stuff, social media. It’s pretty easy to block out.”

It seems Abel largely blocked out that first International Week outing as well; he was invited back the following year to the event at Camelback Ranch, and was dominant at times, racking up five strikeouts in facing a lineup heavy with players currently in pro ball, including Dilan Rosario, Wendell Marrero and Dasan Brown.

Abel also earned an invitation to International Week at Fenway Park the following year, but was sick and unable to pitch, although he impressed the staff by still making the cross-country trip out to get the experience.

Going through events like that, as well as others on the travel ball circuit, played a significant role in helping prepare him get to where he is today.

“It was all awesome. To be able to do everything I did in high school, it was obviously a blessing, but I think it really did prepare for me pro ball. Going through Future Stars, going through PG, going through USA, you play with the best guys and you’re around all the best guys, and you kind of see how everyone handles themselves and how they are on and off the field. Everybody works hard, and it’s like, ‘All right, if I’m going to be better than these guys, I have to work harder.’ All that stuff, I couldn’t imagine where I’d be as a player or mentally and even physically if it wasn’t for that.”

Mike Ashmore
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