The Toronto Blue Jays found strong draft value with T.J. Zeuch with the 21st overall pick last summer.
After sparking his draft stock in the 2015 Cape Cod League, Zeuch made the most of an injury-shortened 2016 season at the University of Pittsburgh by producing a 3.10 ERA over 69.2 innings with strong peripherals.
Zeuch may not currently possess the high-end ceiling of a Sean Reid-Foley near the top of Toronto’s system, but the 21-year-old does have a very high floor and should be able to move through the Blue Jays’ system quickly.
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Name: T.J. Zeuch Position: RHP Age: 21 Height: 6’7″ Weight: 225 lbs Throws: Right Bats: Right Acquired: 2016 MLB Draft (1st Round)
Zeuch looks every bit of six-foot-seven on the mound — and them some — making him one of the more intimidating pitchers in the Blue Jays’ system. That can often be detrimental to a young pitcher, as “too much body” can lead to a disorganized delivery with too many moving parts. This is not the case with Zeuch.
For such a big pitcher, Zeuch’s delivery is natural, athletic, and most importantly, it is repeatable. He kept his walks per nine innings to 2.57 in three seasons with Pitt and lowered that to 1.9 over 34 innings in the Blue Jays system later in the year.
Those numbers are uncommon for a six-foot-seven frame with velocity. Often times, teams are forced to stomach a 4.0+ BB/9 while the prospect develops.
Much of this control comes from the value of Zeuch’s fastball, which is his best pitch and pushes up towards the mid-90s with some very nice tailing movement. (The Matt Smoral project is an example of how that often goes).
“The fastball has velocity, he commands it and it has good plane,” wrote Baseball America’s John Manuel. “He can go through a lineup 2-3 times with his fastball quality and the fact he has 2 distinct secondary pitches, curve & slider.”
Beyond that, Zeuch also throws a strong curveball, a slider with potential, and a changeup that is still raw. He should have an easier time than most pitching prospects staying in the starting rotation long term given the depth of his arsenal if the pitches continue to advance.
Zeuch and 2015 first-rounder Jon Harris profile quite similarly for the Blue Jays right now, but it will be important to see a full season of Zeuch in the minors in 2017. Between Pitt and the Blue Jays, Zeuch topped 100 innings last year and will not need to be eased along.
His ability to chew through quality innings will benefit Zeuch, and if he can develop into a 200-inning workhorse that reaches the third or fourth spot in an MLB rotation, the Blue Jays will be happy. Every rotation needs one of those — or more — and the addition of Zeuch and Harris has given Toronto two relatively stable arms in their top-10 prospect pool.
The 2016 pro season was a good opportunity for Zeuch to get his feet wet, posting a 4.50 ERA over nine starts and topping out with single-A Lansing. It’s possible he opens the year there, but with his talent level and the innings he could work in 2017, Zeuch is one arm the Blue Jays may be a little more aggressive with.
An ideal year would see Zeuch tame high-A Dunedin and set himself up for double-A in 2018. The development of his secondary pitches will be key, but by no means is Zeuch a fastball-only high-schooler. With a little tinkering, those pitches will play well.