Daniel Espino: Indians 2021 Minor League Player Of The Year
Despite the lack of a minor league season in 2020, the year after he was drafted, Daniel Espino appears to be right on schedule.
The 20-year-old righthander excelled in 20 starts at Low-A Lynchburg and High-A Lake County this season to position himself as a prominent member of the Indians' next wave of pitching prospects.
Espino recorded a 3.73 ERA in 91.2 innings, struck out 14.9 per nine innings and allowed a .192 opponent average. His walk rate of 3.8 per nine was manageable for a young power pitcher.
Espino's 152 strikeouts ranked 13th in the minors and second only to the Giants' Kyle Harrison among pitchers 20 and younger.
In addition to his numbers, Espino’s makeup also draws praise.
“His routines and processes are an inspiration to his teammates,” Indians farm director James Harris said.
Espino's fastball ranges from 96-99 mph and he mixes in a curveball, slider and changeup. “I have a lot of confidence in my fastball, but I love all my pitches,” he said.
A native of Panama, Espino moved to Miami as a teenager and eventually enrolled at Georgia Premier Academy in Statesboro. Cleveland drafted him 24th overall in 2019 and signed him away from a Louisiana State commitment for $2.5 million.
Espino made the most of his time at the Indians' alternate training site last year during the pandemic.
"It was only three months,” Espino said, “but it was great to be around a lot of major leaguers and Triple-A guys. I got to pick their brains and see how they went about their business. I learned a lot about the grind of coming to the ballpark every day to get in your work.”
Espino's strong season could earn him a spot in the Double-A Akron rotation next year.
"Everybody has goals,” Espino said. “Getting to the big leagues has been my dream since I was a boy. I stay humble and think about what I can do to get better today. When the time comes, I’ll be ready.”
— First baseman Bobby Bradley made the most of his first full season in the big leagues. He replaced Jake Bauers at first base in June and went into the last weekend of the season with 15 home runs in 72 games while compiling a 100 OPS+.
— Reliever James Karinchak took a major step backwards this year. After averaging nearly 18 strikeouts per nine innings as a setup man in 2020, Karinchak lost control of his curveball this year, which was a problem for the two-pitch pitcher. The Indians demoted him to Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 28, but he pitched sparingly in September.