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The Difference a Year Makes: Being Drafted in 2020 

A Feature on Phillies' First-Round Draft Pick Mick Abel
RHP Mick Abel facing the Dunedin Blue Jays (Clearwater Threshers)
July 17, 2021

2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us, but for Phillies’ first-round draft pick Mick Abel, it was extraordinary. The Portland, Oregon, native was anticipating his senior baseball season with Jesuit High School (Oregon). The team had won the 6A state championship the year before, and the Crusaders were

2020 was an unprecedented year for all of us, but for Phillies’ first-round draft pick Mick Abel, it was extraordinary.

The Portland, Oregon, native was anticipating his senior baseball season with Jesuit High School (Oregon). The team had won the 6A state championship the year before, and the Crusaders were expected to have another competitive season before everything was put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We found out that our season was canceled the Friday before they shut down school. It was one of the most heartbreaking moments of all time, just because we knew we were going to make another run at the title,” Abel said. “The biggest downside of [the COVID-19 pandemic] was just not being in school and not being able to see people that I love and like to spend my time with.”

But Abel continued to look on the bright side. “There were some ups and downs,” Abel said. “One of the positives was that I got to spend a lot more time perfecting my craft, whether it be in the weight room or in the “pitching lab” as I like to call it, before the draft.” The prepster had an inkling he would be drafted that year – he had attended meetings with a majority of professional teams during the off-season prior and the meetings continued after his senior season was scratched. Abel said he went into the draft process with an open mindset. “I thought, whoever I get picked by, I’m going to be all in for them,” Abel said.

The 2020 MLB (Major League Baseball) Draft was, much like the rest of the year, unusual. There were only five rounds instead of the usual 40, not to mention the entire selection show would take place virtually. The draftees, including Abel, attended via video conference instead of in-person. Despite the differences, just like that, Abel went from a lowest of low feeling of having his senior year taken away to one of the highest of highs. On June 10, 2020, the then eighteen-year-old was selected 15th overall in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft by the Philadelphia Phillies. He was the first high school pitcher taken that year and the first high school player to be chosen in the first round out of the Beaver State since 1994. “That was the most overwhelming feeling, in a good way,” Abel said. “As soon as I heard my name on the T.V. it was just a rush of excitement and nervousness.”

Finally, it was back to the ball field for the right-handed pitcher. Abel took part in the Fall Instructional League and in March of 2021, he attended his first Spring Training with the Phillies organization in Clearwater. “I was really excited to get going,” Abel said. “I really wanted to own in on my craft and make sure it was ready to the best of its abilities.” Being the new kid on the block, Abel said he made sure to talk to everyone in the clubhouse. “I wanted to meet new guys and spend time with people I really respect. I met a lot of really cool people who helped me out and hopefully I helped them out with some stuff,” Abel said.

Fast-forward to May 4 and the start of the season for the Low-A Southeast league. For the first time in over a year, there would be fans in the stands to watch a Minor League Baseball game at BayCare Ballpark. Abel shared what it was like the moment when it occurred to him the Threshers would be playing in front of a crowd that night. “We were going out to the field right before Opening Night in Clearwater. Our starting pitcher Gunner Mayer and our pitching coach Tyler Anderson were out there playing catch with Abrahan Gutierrez. I just sat there and stood with coach looking around and realized, ‘there are fans here.’ I never felt more giddy in my life.” Abel said what he had missed the most about playing the game were the fans. “I was just so happy and excited to see fans and see people who wanted to watch baseball. Just seeing and feeling the environment that the fans provide is something that I really missed.”

In his first month of professional ball, Abel finished 0-1 with a 5.23 ERA. He had one of his best starts of the young season on May 22 in an outing against the Dunedin Blue Jays. The 6-foot-five starter allowed just one hit while striking out four batters scattered over three scoreless innings on the mound for the Threshers, throwing 23 of his 35 pitches for strikes.

When it comes to goals for his first professional season, Abel said he is just looking to get his feet wet in professional ball. “For me, it’s just going out and playing baseball again,” Abel said. “After not playing in meaningful games for almost two years, it’s just kind of getting into the groove of the game.”

“It was a very interesting year, but I’m very glad I ended up where I am today.”