Rob Zastryzny, lefthanded pitcher, 6-3, 205
Drafted in the second round in 2013
Possible landing spot in 2014: Kane County
Much of my "after the first round" draft prep last year was writing a list up to 200 or so on prospects. I didn't recognize "Rob Zastryzny" when his name was called, but when I saw it, I thought, "Oh. The guy with the Z's." That was my immediate in-depth analysis of the Cubs second pick last year. As it happened, he had pitched a game in his conference tournament on the ESPN family of networks, so I got to see him pitch once, after the fact on my computer..
In that outing... wait... the best way to put this is...
Most pitchers start their delivery with a semblance of balance. Both feet are usually roughly shoulder length on the rubber. Sometimes, one foot might be off the rubber, but there is some balance. When I saw Zastryzny (the middle letters are "try"), there was no balance. His glove (right) foot was on the left side of the rubber, a bit in front of his left foot. He looked entirely like a reliever.
As a second pick, I didn't mind. He pitched well in the game, and the announcers liked him late better than before the game. That's a good sign. I watched him pitch once in a Low-A game that was so slick and clean (barely over two hours, a 1-0 Kane County win) that I never ended submitting a report on it.
The most fun part of the game was having an injured hitter sitting next to us behind the plate. He cringed or moaned when his mates would watch strike one or strike two sail over the plate for a strike. Then swing at crap in the dirt for strike three. He also was annoyed at the hitter who worked a 3-0 count, watched a center-cut fastball, swung at a nice curve, then watched a low-90s fastball for a strike three.
By the ninth, we had built up a bit of a rapport (I thought), and noted a Cougars reliever threw one "at 93 or 94" to set up a strikeout. The guy heading for surgery then flashed me a "4", indicating 94. Players can be cool, and informative, in minor league settings, if you remember your place.
And that the player is working.
Back to Zastryzny. He pitched rather well in Boise and Kane County last year. I saw most of his Low-A strikeouts that night, and Tyler Skulina looked good as well. What the Cubs look to be amassing is a decent string of pitchers that could be valid options in the show, in not such a long time. Zastryzny could jump straight to Daytona in High-A, and that wouldn't be that much of an aggressive push.
The Cubs' org philosophy, starting with last season, appears to be something like this: If a pitcher has High-A talent/composure, that's where he'll go. If he doesn't, he'll start lower. For too long, the guys starting in a level were the best guys to put at that level. However, they were often outgunned there. Low-A pitching has been kind of brutal the last few years for the Cubs. There were bright spots, but the back ends of bullpen/rotation were a bit unreliable. Like in Wrigley.
If Rob Zastryzny is High-A quality for April, that's where he'll go. If not, he'll follow the Pierce Johnson flight plan, of starting in Low-A, and moving up as he's earned it. This premise seems a given, but a good system should have four (at least) level quality starting pitchers at every level. If they improve, that helps up the ladder. If they faceplant,then it doesn't.
Zastryzny looks like a starter. I'm guessing Kane County, as they can piggyback him (run out two starters over seven or eight innings) if they wish to watch his pitch count. For him, watch the W/K ratio. I don't have any intel that he'll be wild, but I'm not sure on his putaway pitches. He has changed speeds routinely, so his value isn't tied up in a radar gun reading. Keep it over 2/1, get him through the 2014 season healthy, and call it a win. I have no lefthanders rated higher than Zastryzny on the Zygote 50 (sixth among starting pitchers), so getting something from him would be really helpful. Top lefty, and most Z's. Here's hoping.
But it's not worth rushing him over.