The Road to The Show™: Phillies righty Abel
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Phillies prospect Mick Abel. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here. Coming into the season, Mick Abel seemed to be
Each week, MiLB.com profiles an elite prospect by chronicling the steps he's taken toward achieving his Major League dream. Here's a look at second-ranked Phillies prospect Mick Abel. For more stories about players on The Road to The Show, click here.
Coming into the season, Mick Abel seemed to be the leading man in an impressive duo of Phillies pitching prospects.
Abel and Andrew Painter worked in the same rotation, alongside Phillies No. 4 prospect Griff McGarry, for a good portion of the year and have their sights set on making it to Philadelphia together.
“I think both of us, the goal is to reach the big leagues and have a nice long career,” Abel told MLB.com in February. “I think doing it together, it’s a dominant duo right there. We’ve still got time and we’ve still got a lot of work to do, but it’s definitely something I see.”
But in a season where Abel wasn't so dominant, Painter turned in an award-winning performance and earned MLB Pipeline’s Pitching Prospect of the Year honors. The duo swapped places atop the club's top prospects list as Painter leaped ahead of Abel. Even then, there was a lot for the Phillies to like about Abel’s development as a starter in what amounted to his first full season in the Minor Leagues.
The No. 15 overall selection in the 2020 Draft, Abel was shut down last July with right shoulder tendinitis. He completed just 44 ⅔ innings for Single-A Clearwater in his professional debut before returning for instructional league play. This season, Abel remained healthy from start to finish and advanced from High-A Jersey Shore to Double-A Reading.
Across both levels, Abel posted an 8-11 record with a 3.90 ERA. He also struck out 130 in 108 1/3 innings while holding opposing batters to a .229 average. The right-hander allowed more than three runs in just four of his 23 starts. His surface numbers were certainly spoiled by those four clunkers, as he posted a 2.63 ERA in his other 19 outings.
In completing that many innings while coming off an injury, Abel seemed to live up to the “future workhorse” title that amateur scouting director Brian Barber gave him after the Draft.
“I know Mick has tremendous potential and tremendous upside, and our scouts were just in unanimous agreement with that,” Barber said. “[He’s] just a dominating factor and presence and a top-of-the-rotation pitcher. … We love the delivery. We love the way the arm works, the arm action.”
The 21-year-old posted his best numbers in the latter part of the season. Perhaps he was eased back in the early going, making just one start of at least five innings in his first six outings as he pitched to a 4.50 ERA. Despite his early struggles, Abel was still able to rack up an impressive amount of strikeouts. In those first six starts, he struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings.
Abel actually posted a lower ERA in his next nine starts (4.14), despite only registering 51 punchouts in 50 frames (9.18 K/9). But he seemed to put it all together in his final starts for the Blue Claws.
He made his best start of the season against Wilmington on Aug. 2, where he fanned 10 batters, a personal-best, and yielded four hits and two walks over six innings. The No. 45 overall prospect followed that with another scoreless performance against Hudson Valley, where he and Painter both shined in a doubleheader. The duo combined for 19 strikeouts in the twin bill as Abel chipped in another six scoreless innings.
“Really he’s kind of getting back just getting a good understanding with what he's doing,” Jersey Shore pitching coach Brad Bergesen told MLB.com. “Conviction and really keeping the quote-unquote 'foot on the gas' has been a big thing for him. And really just getting him to trust his stuff and buy into it and really attacking the zone, being aggressive and working ahead.”
Abel picked up momentum from those final outings with the Blue Claws and made some of his best starts of the season following his promotion to Reading in late August. He sported a 3.52 ERA with 27 punchouts over 23 innings overall and struck out eight in two different starts.
Beyond the surface numbers, Abel still displayed an impressive four-pitch mix to go along with his starter’s workload. Scouts have graded his mid-90’s four-seamer as his best pitch, especially as it works off of his sinking changeup. But Abel himself feels his slider, with which he aims to get better depth and a lower spin efficiency, is his most effective offering. His curveball is still a work in progress but can be effective when he’s landing his slider.
Phillies director of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski and manager Rob Thomson have both discussed plans for Abel, along with Painter and McGarry to join the club for big-league Spring Training. It’s unlikely that one of the three earns a spot in the rotation for the defending National League champs on Opening Day, but all three should be well positioned to make a contribution in the Majors sometime during the season.
Gerard Gilberto is a reporter for MiLB.com.