Today we continue our countdown of the top 30 Blue Jays prospects with T.J. Zeuch at #18, a right-hander who made his MLB debut in 2019.
Name: T.J. Zeuch
Position: Pitcher Age: 24
Height: 6’7 Weight: 225 lbs
Throws: Right Bats: Right
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st round (21st overall) in 2016
2019 Organization Level: AAA/MLB ETA: 2020
The first-round pick for the Blue Jays of the 2016 draft was originally drafted out of high school in the 31st round by the Royals in the 2013 draft, but opted to play college ball with the University of Pittsburgh instead.
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In his three-year college career, T.J. Zeuch was 13-13 with a 3.33 E.R.A. over 39 games (33 starts). In the summer of 2015, he played in the Cape Cod Baseball League for the Chatham Anglers.
Spending four years in the minors, he posted a 19-19 record with a 3.52 E.R.A. over 66 games (65 starts). He pitched three complete games with two of those being shutouts. He specifically did well at limiting the long ball as he only gave up 23 home runs in 342.2 innings.
He made his major league debut this season where he appeared in five games (three starts) and went 1-2 with a 4.76 E.R.A. In 22 innings, he gave up 22 hits, whiffed 20 and gave 11 free passes.
MLB Pipeline gives Zeuch a grade of 60 for his fastball, but it isn’t his primary pitch, as his sinker is Zeuch’s go-to offering.
According to Baseball Savant, Zeuch relied on his fastball only 3% of the time at the major league level with all but one pitch being thrown for a ball. He threw 12 fastballs at the big leagues with three of those coming against right-handed batters and the other nine coming against left-handed batters. His fastball averaged 90.7 MPH.
Zeuch has an arsenal of five pitches that include four off-speed pitches. They are the following with average velocity and usage percentage from Baseball Savant:
Sinker: 91.9 MPH (49.5%)
Changeup: 83.1 MPH (19.6%)
Slider: 83.4 MPH (19.6%)
Curveball: 75.5 MPH (8.4%)
Based on those stats, you can tell that his changeup and slider are the same regarding the effectiveness of those two pitches. He relied more on his changeup against left-handed batters (53/79 pitches) and relied more on his slider against right-handed batters (55/79 pitches).
This is what MLB Pipeline has to say about his off-speed pitches:
"“An imposing presence on the mound at 6-foot-7, Zeuch uses his height to his advantage by creating a steep angle to the plate. The downhill plane only enhances the right-hander’s sinker, a plus pitch he throws with heavy late life in the low- to mid-90s. This enables him to generate ground balls at a near-elite rate (57 percent in ’18). Zeuch’s curveball has become his best secondary offering and plays nicely off his sinker, keeping hitters off-balance with its shape and late bite. His slider wasn’t as sharp in 2018 but is still viewed as an average pitch, and he also throws a changeup that’s a distant fourth pitch”."
Zeuch can very well be a future back-end starter on a good Blue Jays team, but it’s no guarantee with the Jays improved pitching depth. If there’s no place in the rotation for him, he would be a valuable bullpen arm that could be used in a multi-inning role.
In 2020, he will most likely start the season in AAA and be stretched out as a starter, but he has an outside shot of getting the 5th spot if he has a very strong spring showing. If injuries arise though, which they will undoubtedly will, he would be given strong consideration for a call-up.