PHILADELPHIA -- The Phillies had just selected Mick Abel with the 15th overall pick in the 2020 Draft. He celebrated the moment with family and friends.
Then, an unknown number called his phone to FaceTime. Curious, Abel answered.
“I see his face pop up and I’m like, oh, that’s Bryce Harper,” Abel said Wednesday night. “What the heck?”
Things like that will become more normal for Abel in the future. But on Wednesday night, he soaked in the accomplishment of being a high school pitcher from Jesuit High School in Oregon selected in the first round of the Draft.
“It’s a special feeling and I don’t really know if I’m ready to give that up quite yet and start thinking about everything that is to come in my career,” he said.
Abel drew comparisons on Wednesday night to everybody from Stephen Strasburg to Mike Soroka to Jack Flaherty to Rick Porcello to Justin Verlander. There are three Cy Young Awards, 12 All-Star appearances and two World Series championship rings in that group. The Phillies hope Abel finds himself in that mix one day. They think he can.
“I know Mick has tremendous potential and tremendous upside, and our scouts were just in unanimous agreement with that,” Phillies amateur scouting director Brian Barber said. “He has the potential to be a future workhorse and just a dominating factor and presence and a top-of-the-rotation pitcher.”
Abel, 18, had his senior season cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Phillies saw enough of him and know enough of him to feel comfortable taking him in the first round. Abel is the first high school pitcher the Phillies have selected in the first round (not including compensatory first-round picks) since Jesse Biddle in 2010. Earlier this century, they also selected high school pitchers Kyle Drabek ('06), Cole Hamels ('02) and Gavin Floyd ('01) in the first round.
“From the very first day that I came over to the Phillies [in October],” Barber said, “I had a conversation with our area scout up there, Zach Friedman, and he just wanted to make sure that I knew who Mick Abel was and that he loved him and wanted us to have the opportunity to possibly select him at this time. Mick is a pitcher that I’ve known for over two years now and just one that I fell in love with the very first time that I ever saw him.
“We love the delivery. We love the way the arm works, the arm action. There’s certain criteria that a high school pitcher for me and for us has to overcome and Nick was able to exceed all those expectations that we have for those guys.”
Abel has a fastball that has touched 100 mph, but sits in the 94-97 mph range. He has an excellent slider that he feels comfortable throwing in any count and in any part of the strike zone. He also has the ability to change the shape of the pitch from a hard, tight breaking ball to more of a slurve.
He throws a changeup and curveball, too.
“Most 18-year-olds with that type of fastball and that type of slider probably just don't use their changeup as much as they're going to,” Barber said. “The curveball is a pitch that he's used in the past and put it in his back pocket. Through the pandemic and shutdown, he sort of brought it back out [in workouts]. The film and the data that we've seen looks really good on that for future improvement as well. I'm definitely hoping we'll get a guy who has four pitches that are quality and all get big league hitters out.”
Abel was twice named the Gatorade Oregon Baseball Player of the Year. He went 10-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 111 strikeouts in 72 1/3 innings as a junior. He helped Jesuit High School win a state championship in 2019. He also helped Team USA win a silver medal at the World Baseball Softball Confederation U-18 Baseball World Cup in 2019.
His strong performances on the national stage got him into the first round and that unexpected FaceTime from Harper.
Harper’s message? Welcome aboard.
“I think the biggest thing I took away is the grind starts now,” Abel said. “Baseball is a grind, and it’s going to take a lot for me to get to the next level, and I better get to work.”