Draft Suitor Emerging for Top-Rated High School Pitcher in Recent Mocks

Rob Bradford
June 04, 2020 - 8:29 am

It's not easy and often unfair. But when it comes to young talent people want comparables.

Basically, when they grow up what player will they become?

It's a question Kevin Gunderson has been routinely peppered with when it comes to Mick Abel, the Oregon high school pitcher who figures to be taken in the first round of next week's Major League Baseball Draft. Fortunately, Gunderson -- a former minor-league pitcher in the Braves organization -- has a pretty good big leaguer to base his answer on.

"I get asked the comp question a lot and it’s hard to pinpoint one exact pitcher that he resembles," said Gunderson, who runs the Gunderson Pitching Academy in West Linn, Oregon. "I was fortunate enough to play with Max Scherzer on the USA National Team in ’05 and Mick possesses some of the very similar characteristics from Max from just sheer competitiveness and the desire to be the best with tenacity and work ethic. Mick is his own unique guy on the mound. He has his own repertoire. He has his own delivery that works well for him. Yeah, I would say Max just being comparable from a work ethic standpoint to an intensity standpoint. A workman-like approach. Max was pretty fun to be around for that summer."

This should be good news for Red Sox fans. Why? Because a lot of those whose job it is to figure out what player will go where in the Draft have Abel going to the Sox with the 17th overall pick. MLB.com. ESPN.com. Radio.com. The list grows each day.

The pitcher has a fastball that sits around 94 mph while occasionally drifting into the high 90's. His slider was recently ranked the best of any high school pitcher entering the Draft by Baseball America. And now Abel is throwing a changeup that last year's first overall pick Adley Rutschman can attest is a legitimate weapon.

"He has had the pleasure of having Adley Rustchman catch his bullpens. Adley is obviously going to play this game for a long time and has seen some really good pitchers," said Gunderson, who has been working with Abel since the Jesuit High product was 14 years old. "He thinks his changeup is one of the best he has seen. People just haven’t seen it because he hasn’t thrown it a ton on the high school circuit. The world is going to see it here eventually.

"He never has settled. One thing I have loved about Mick is that he never gets complacent. He has the work ethic of a guy who has been in the big leagues for 10 years. He is at every workout. He’s there early. He stays late. He really has the drive to be the best. He seems to always steadily get better and better every single year. It’s been a fun process."

For starters, it tremendously rare that an Oregon high schooler gets taken in the first round, a feat that has only occurred six times and once since 1977. There have been plenty of Oregon products to have their names called in the first round -- Jacoby Ellsbury, Jed Lowrie and Rutschman being a few -- but usually, it is after a stop in college. But while Abel is currently committed to play at Oregon State, it would seemingly be a difficult decision to turn his back on pro ball this time around.

Gunderson, for one, feels the two-time Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year is up for any such challenge.

"Mick is an extremely special talent," said Gunderson, who has developed a six-day-a-week routine with Abel, whose state championship game would normally have been played this weekend. "He does things that are so advanced for a high school kid. He’s always been so special.

"It’s been fun. It’s been exciting. There have been a lot of conversations, rightfully so. The kid is deserving of any conversations. Mick and I talk on a daily basis and we have to stick to our process. He is very process-oriented, which in my opinion is above the majority of the high school kids. As a collegiate athlete and former pro athlete, you learn to develop routines as you get older. Mick has really understood and valued it since his middle years of high school. We just have been really, really trying to keep him in a position where we are going to keep working and get our work in. He likes to do things under the radar. But he’s working every single week. Every day he’s out there doing stuff. It’s been fun. There have been a lot of conversations that for sure."

So for the next few days, Abel waits and works. There is the full-on bullpen day Monday. The delivery day Friday. A day of strictly working on spinning the baseball. And there is the lifting, which has added 15-20 pounds to the pitcher's 6-foot-5 frame over the past year.

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