With free agents flying off the board and the Cliff Lee bombshell dropped on Philly, the hot stove is sufficiently stoked. So let’s keep that fire roaring with more prospect talk. This series on prospects will cover a wide range of players as well as positions. We’ll cover sleepers as well as some of the more obvious stars of the future.
The next prospect in the series is a guy who has already seen some big league time and just like Dustin Ackley, Marc Rzepczynski dominated the Arizona Fall League. The Toronto Blue Jays pitching prospect was 4-0 in seven starts with 1.16 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in 31.0 innings pitched with a 27/9 strikeout to walk ratio in the 2010 AFL. That’s good stuff in a league that is full of up and coming hitters. He led the league in wins, ERA, IP and was fourth in strikeouts and WHIP for starting pitchers.
Rzepczynski was Toronto’s fifth round pick in the 2007 MLB Draft. He’s a lefty who stands 6’1” and was drafted out of the University of California-Riverside. His repertoire includes an 88-92 mph fastball with good sink, a plus slider, an above average changeup, and an average curveball. He lacks a true out pitch, but still gets a lot of strikeouts.
The big lefty has 23 MLB starts and 125 innings under his belt, so he is not considered a rookie and has about a full season of Major League experience. In the majors, he is 6-8 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP. That’s nothing to get excited about, but his minor league stats lead one to believe that he can become quite successful at baseball’s highest level.
Before being called up to Toronto in July 2009, “Zep” posted a 21-11 record with 9.8 K/9 and a 61% groundball rate in two and a half seasons at four different minor league levels. Those numbers are promising, but for a guy with groundball and strikeout talent, he has average control (3.5 BB/9). His 8.4 hits per nine against hitters who are inferior to MLB hitters and 1.32 WHIP may lead one to wonder how well he will actually perform as a regular in the big league.
Helping his cause, Rzepczynski gets a good number of pop-ups. The large number of pop-ups combined with his high groundball rate leads to a very low line-drive rate (12.7% minor league rate) which keeps batters’ ability to hit for average low. He walked too many in general, but he has always posted good strikeout numbers and also has good groundball stuff so the rallies will be minimized.
As a 25-year-old, he has a lot of promise heading into next season. He will need to find a way to keep the ball in the park at the Rogers Centre. Seven of the eight home runs allowed by Rzepczynski came at home in 2010.
This newfound gopherballitis is a bit troublesome, considering he gave up just five homers in more than 250 innings pitched before his 2009 MLB debut. Since then, he has given up 25 gopher balls in 192 innings pitched. Is this because the hitters are better at the highest levels or did Zep finally hit a wall?
Probably more the former than the latter. So now it is time for the big lefty to adjust. Rzepczynski started his 2010 Major League stint a bit shaky but finished strongly, posting a 2.31 ERA over his last four starts, fanning 26 batters over 23 1/3 innings and winning his last three decisions. His dominance in the minor leagues combined with his strong finish to 2010 should give fantasy owners the confidence to draft Rzepczynski as an upside middle to back end of the rotation starting pitcher in 2011.