Phillies top prospect sparkles in his spring training Grapefruit League debut

No. 2 prospect Mick Abel looked good in his first Grapefruit League action on Sunday.

Philadelphia Phillies No. 2 prospect, pitcher Mick Abel, had a strong spring training debut on Sunday
Philadelphia Phillies No. 2 prospect, pitcher Mick Abel, had a strong spring training debut on Sunday / Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It's spring training. Grapefruit League action has just begun. There's no need to overreact to anything that happened over this past weekend of games for the Philadelphia Phillies. But what's the fun in that?

Among the many encouraging things from Sunday's 4-0 throttling of a New York Yankees split-squad team was the 2024 spring training debut of the organization's top prospect, Mick Abel. Technically, he isn't the Phillies' No. 1 prospect, but with Andrew Painter still rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the No. 2-ranked Abel is essentially the top dog this season.

We knew Abel was slated to pitch in the Phillies' home opener at BayCare Ballpark but didn't know when to expect him. Perhaps following Aaron Nola's spectacular two-inning debut? Nope, not quite yet. We had to wait through impressive outings from Matt Strahm, Jeff Hoffman, and José Alvarado until Abel came out for the sixth inning.

It was worth the wait.

The 22-year-old didn't disappoint in his first spring showing. While he didn't face the best the Bronx Bombers have to offer — the A-team was busy blowing out the Toronto Blue Jays — he looked confident and had his way with the three Yankees he did match up against.

Abel needed 16 pitches to dispose of T.J. Rumfield, Brandon Lockridge, and Oswald Peraza, racking up two strikeouts in a clean frame. If you're scratching your head, that's okay. The only one of those players you might have heard of is Peraza, the Yankees' No. 2 prospect in 2022 before he debuted last season.

Regardless, Abel looked good. The right-hander leaned on his fastball, throwing it nine times and using it to get ahead in each at-bat. The four-seamer sat at 95.4 mph and topped out at 96.4 mph.

Breaking down Mick Abel versus the Yankees

Against Rumfield, Abel pounded the zone with the fastball, getting ahead 0-2 with a swinging and a called strike. After a foul on the third fastball and missing with a pair of sliders, he went right back to the fastball again, which Rumfield fought off. Then, Abel pulled the string, fooling him with an 87 mph changeup — his only one of the day — inducing a weak ground out to first.

Abel got ahead of the second batter, Lockridge, with a pair of fastballs before missing with a slider. But he came right back with another slider that froze Lockridge for strike three. You can see the knee-locking offering below.

The third at-bat was the most telling of the three. Peraza had 191 plate appearances against major league pitching last season, and while he only hit .191, as the former No. 2 prospect, he has some pedigree. That didn't seem to matter to the Phillies current No. 2 prospect.

After missing with a slider, Abel went after him with three straight four-seamers to get ahead 1-2 before finishing him off with a swing and miss on another slider.

Abel's impressive debut won't move the needle for Opening Day

While Abel had a good showing in his first action of the spring, nothing tangible will come of it. No matter how the rest of his Grapefruit League appearances go, he'll likely begin his season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley — the Phillies don't have any openings in the big league rotation. Abel is just putting his best foot forward, trying to make a good impression so he stays top of mind for a possible mid- to late-season call-up.

The former first-round pick has only thrown 4 2/3 innings at Triple-A in his career and will have to show the Phillies brass that he can get his command under control. Despite running a 10.5 K/9 between Double- and Triple-A last season, he also ran a 5.2 BB/9. It's a little concerning, especially since it wasn't an isolated occurrence. Since his professional debut in 2021, Abel has a 4.8 BB/9.

Luckily, there's no pressure for Abel to try to be anything more than he is at this stage of his development. The Phillies don't need him yet, and there's no thought of him heading north to Philadelphia at the end of March, but he's still considered valuable rotation depth this year. And that's been the story since comments from president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski at the Winter Meetings in December.

So, for now, enjoy Abel's Grapefruit League appearances because there's no guarantee we'll see him after spring training wraps up on March 25.