After Zoom Courtship, Phillies Top Pick Meets Media Over Zoom
Much of the working world has had to work from home in recent months, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. So too did the Phillies professional scouting staff, even using Zoom to speak to potential draft picks. The first round draft pick of the Phillies, Mick Abel, had an extensive Zoom chat with seven Phillies staff members. That helped contribute to his drafting by the Phillies in the first round.
As the scouting process went on Zoom, so did Abel's first chance to speak to Phillies media on Wednesday night.
Thanks partially to Zoom, Abel and the Phillies knew each other pretty well. "I had a pretty good relationship to the Phillies coming into it," Abel said from his Oregon home.
The communication between potential draft picks and major league teams was originally suspended. Abel kept shooting video for potential clubs. Once the communication opened again, Abel submitted video to a portal set up for potential draftees to submit film.
Brian Barber, Phillies director of scouting, saw lots of "video and data" uploaded by Abel over the last few months. But Barber has long had his eye on Abel, thanks to Phillies scout Zach Friedman.
“It was a guy that from the very first day that I came over to the Phillies", Barber said. "I had a conversation with our area scout up there, Zach Friedman, and he just wanted to make sure I knew who Nick Abel was and that he loved him and wanted us to have the opportunity to possibly select him.”
So even before the Phillies were limited to video, Barber was impressed.
Abel was “one I fell in love with the first moment I ever saw him," Barber said.
Friedman and West Coast Supervisor Shane Bowers visited Abel in January for an in-home visit. They got to see him pitch live. But even without game action in 2020, the Phillies are satisfied they got the right guy.
“I feel absolutely confident we’ve been able to see Mick plenty given the situation that we are in," Barber said.
“He’s honestly like a brother to me," Abel said. "He’s played professional baseball and he understand what it takes to get to the major leagues… He’s taught me a lot about work ethic and being dedicated to the grind and being dedicated to the game of baseball… You’ve got to be obsessed with it.”
Abel was greeted by Phillies star Bryce Harper. Abel got a Facetime from a phone number he did not recognize. It turned out to be Harper. "What the heck?", Abel remembered reacting, surprised by the call.
The only thing left for the Phillies to do is sign Abel. Abel had previously committed to the University of Oregon. But Barber is confident that Abel will sign with the Phillies.
“We’ve had discussions with him and I’m confident we are going to get Mick signed," Barber said.. “We selected the best player on the board and we have full confidence we will get him into the Phillies organization after this process”.
Abel has signed with Beverly Hills Sports Counsel.
So what do the Phillies think the future holds for the 18 year-old pitcher? Barber believes that Abel has a high ceiling. Barber sees, “the potential to be a potential workhorse, a dominating presence, and a top of the rotation pitcher”.
Abel spent the shutdown working on his curveball and the Phillies believe he could have as many as four pitches to work with. “I’m definitely hoping we’re going to get a guy that has four pitches that are quality and are going to get major league hitters out," Barber said.
Though he's a self-described "West Coast guy", Abel said he knew one thing about Philadelphia: the fans.
“I’ve always heard about the fans...how Philadelphia always has the best fans no matter what sport. That’s definitely what I think about when I think of Philadelphia sports, especially baseball – know that I am going to be supported by an amazing fan base”.
There will not likely be a minor league season for Abel to start the journey towards Philadelphia in 2020. But with today's draft, the first step has been taken.