Local pitching phenom Daniel Espino achieved the goal of a lifetime’s worth of work as the flamethrowing pitcher was selected by the Cleveland Indians with the 24th pick in the first round of Major League Baseball’s draft Monday evening.
A member of the Georgia Premier Academy for the last three seasons, Espino blossomed into one of the best professional prospects — at the high school or collegiate level — in the country. He was rated by Baseball America as the best prep pitcher in the nation last summer and he is certainly still the hardest throwing after being clocked at 99 miles per hour at a Perfect Game showcase at Wrigley Field last summer.
A dominant showing by Espino during GPA’s spring season made sure that he was on the radar of every team and it was the Indians that finally called out his number.
“It was such a great feeling — I can’t even describe it,” Espino said. “This is what I’ve dreamed about. It’s been crazy the last few days, but that’s I moment I’ll remember forever.”
The moment was especially memorable for Espino not so much because of the new members of the Indians’ organization that will be coming into his life, but because of the old members of his journey to the draft that were there to share in the celebration. Espino grew up in Panama before leaving his home country behind in search of better chances to develop as a player in the United States.
Espino has only seen his family sporadically over the last few years, but everyone was on hand for his graduation from Bulloch Academy last week before joining him on his journey to New York for the draft.
“Everything is more special because I get to share it with my family,” Espino said. “They’ve supported me and encouraged me the whole time. They’ve also helped to keep everything calm leading up to (the draft).To be able to tell my mom and dad that I had been picked and to be able to hug them — that was very special for me.”
All of the hype that has surrounded Espino for the last two seasons will only grow now that he is a first round selection, but the next step for him is still uncertain.
Joining the Indians will likely come with a big signing bonus and plenty of support from the organization to give their top pick a good path to the big leagues. On the other hand, Espino and his family also value education and he has already locked down a scholarship to play at LSU next spring if he chooses to go to college before turning pro.
“I’ll be making a decision pretty soon,” Espino said. “I see it as a win-win. I like what I’ve seen from Cleveland’s organization and it’s obviously great to be able to start a professional career. But LSU is also a great school with a great team and coaches that I like.
“God has it all planned out. I know that it’s going to be great.”