Blue Jays: Moving on from former first round draft pick T.J. Zeuch
The Toronto Blue Jays announced yesterday that they have traded right-hander T.J. Zeuch to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for cash considerations.
Drafted by the Blue Jays in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the University of Pittsburgh alum struggled to find a regular spot on the big league roster, compiling a 4.59 ERA over the past three seasons. He was used sparingly during that time, appearing in 13 games (seven starts), and would go on to finish his Blue Jays career with 31 strikeouts through 49.0 innings. He would be designated for assignment on July 20th to make room for catcher Alejandro Kirk after his 60-day injured list stint was over.
For Zeuch, the biggest issue was his consistency on the mound, struggling to carve out a regular spot in the rotation and struggling this season to keep runs off the scoreboard. He gave up six home runs through 15.0 innings of work at the big league level and eventually fell victim to the numbers game, where the organization was just not able to keep him on the 40-man roster with all the other players.
The Blue Jays have traded former first-round selection T.J. Zeuch to the St. Louis Cardinals, a new chapter for the once highly regarded right-hander.
Zeuch does still have minor league options available but with Alek Manoah pitching well and other prospects coming up through the farm system, the right-hander’s days with the Blue Jays were numbered. It may be more beneficial for Zeuch to start fresh with a new ballclub, whether it be as a starter or a reliever, and he may be able to find the same form that impressed the Blue Jays to select him in the first round back in 2016.
With any first-round selection come lofty goals, and while I wouldn’t necessarily say Zeuch was a bust compared to other selections who did not pan out (Max Pentecost and D.J. Davis being recent examples), it does sting to see other players the Blue Jays could have selected after the right-hander already contributing at the major league level. Some notable names include:
- Round 1, 32nd: C – Will Smith (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Round 1, 33rd: OF Dylan Carlson (St. Louis Cardinals)
- Round 1, 34rd: RHP Dakota Hudson (St. Louis Cardinals)
- Round 2, 59th: OF Bryan Reynolds (San Francisco Giants, now with the Pittsburgh Pirates)
- Round 2, 64th: 1B Pete Alonso (New York Mets)
- Round 3, 101st: RHP Dustin May (Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Round 4, 122nd: RHP Shane Bieber (Cleveland Indians)
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Looking back at the 2016 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays were wise to select Zeuch at the time, as he was one of the more established college pitchers and had pitched well at the University of Pittsburgh to the tune of a 3.33 ERA through 39 appearances with 205 strikeouts.
He also had a great showing with the Chatham Anglers in the prestigious Cape Cod League during the summer of 2015, starting four games and allowing only three earned runs through 20.2 innings, finishing the season with a 1.31 ERA and drastically improving his draft stock at the same time.
Sometimes things just don’t work out at the major league level and while I wish Zeuch would have been able to find a spot in the rotation, there are other arms in the Blue Jays system who are just performing better and the 40-man roster is just a bit too crowded to keep him around. He most likely would not have made it past the waiver wire after he was designated for assignment, so the fact the Jays got something for him (even just cash considerations) is better than nothing.
It just goes to show how sometimes the MLB draft can be a total crapshoot and no high-ranking or high drafted player is guaranteed to succeed in major league baseball, otherwise, I am sure Shane Bieber or Pete Alonso would have gone a lot higher in the draft.
All the best to T.J. Zeuch and his new opportunity with the Cardinals.