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Blue Jays select T.J. Zeuch, RHP from the University of Pittsburgh, in the 1st round

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T.J. Zeuch of the University of Pittsburgh as illustrated by Minor Leaguer
T.J. Zeuch of the University of Pittsburgh as illustrated by Minor Leaguer

With their 1st round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Blue Jays played right to type in just about every way and selected T.J. Zeuch, a 6'7", 220 pound pitcher from Pitt. They chose a college pitcher with a first round pick for the third straight year and sixth in the last eighth years going all the way back to J.P. Riccardi's last draft in 2009. He's played in the Atlantic Coast Conference, like Deck McGuire and Marcus Stroman. He pitched well in the Cape Cod League, like numerous Blue Jays picks, but most notably Jeff Hoffman. If you didn't know there were new bosses in town, this draft pick certainly wouldn't be any indication.

In their final rankings, Zeuch was rated as the 20th best player by Baseball America, 28th overall MLB Pipeline, and 29th overall by Perfect Game.

Here is what was written in BBB's preview of college pitching options:

Zeuch has had a breakout 2016 season after a good showing last summer on the Cape, and is shooting up draft board into first round territory. It's not hard to see why, as he's got a big 6'7" frame with a fastball in the low/mid 90s that will touch the upper 90s. The secondary stuff isn't as advanced, with his slider showing most promise and flashing plus.

He has more upside than most college pitchers, though also carries more risk and will likely require more development time. He's also one of the younger college pitchers (won't turn 21 until after the draft), and comes from Ohio so his arm should have less mileage. He has dealt with some injury issues, but not arm related. Overall, it's an intriguing option at 21.

Zeuch has been a starter for Pitt since his freshman season, and exclusively since his sophomore season, with the important college stats shown below:

Year IP H ERA BB K
2014 55.2 55 2.75 17 41
2015 88.1 95 3.87 25 90
Cape 20.2 20 1.31 5 17
2016 69.2 61 3.10 19 74
Total 234.1 231 3.15 66 222

His best ERA came in his freshman year, but his peripherals have been improved every year since, increasing his strikeout walks and lowering his walk rate. He was more hitable in his sophomore year, but it wasn't an issue and at the college level there's not much that can inferred from that. His innings were down in 2016 as Zeuch missed the beginning of the season with a groin injury that shouldn't be an ongoing issue. Paradoxically, it may be a small positive in that he should be able to pitch more innings this summer, likely for Vancouver, than he would have otherwise.

Below is some video of a start he made on April 30th:

Perfect Game featured him in their April 22nd Draft Pack (last entry) which is recommended in its entirety but is excerpted below:

Restricted to an innings limit last summer on the Cape ...Zeuch showed very well against some of the best college has to offer as he worked comfortably in the 89-92 mph range with his fastball showing a full and loose arm action with the ability to pound the ball to the bottom of the zone. Naturally with a pitcher of Zeuch’s height, he’s able to use his long levers and generate excellent extension out front which in turn results in late riding life with a second gear to the ball on its way to the plate.

Jump forward to this spring and Zeuch has reportedly shown an uptick in velocity at the beginning of outings, working in a very believable 91 to 94 mph range and touching higher, before settling into the velocity band he showed last summer.

Aside from the fastball, the Ohio native has three distinct off-speed pitches that, like his fastball, are anything but straight on the way to the plate. His changeup is a solid mid-80s offering with which he’s able to mimic his arm action, creating some deception as hitters read fastball only to be left out front on the late-diving pitch. Of his two breaking balls it’s the slider that shows the best potential as it’s a mid-80s offering with tilting life and has the potential to develop into a true swing-and-miss pitch. Zeuch’s curveball is a pitch features short depth to the bottom of the zone and 11-to-5 shape in the mid-70s to give him a fourth weapon in his arsenal.

MLB Pipeline (MLB.com) had this to say about his stuff:

Zeuch has a four-pitch mix, all thrown with steep angle from his 6-foot-7 frame that could add more strength. He uses a relatively easy delivery to fire fastballs that have touched 96-97 mph since his return. He'll sit in the 92-94 mph range and his fastball has good run and sink to it. Zeuch will use both a slider and a curve effectively, with his breaking stuff occasionally flashing plus, though it's been inconsistent. He tinkers with a changeup in the bullpen, but doesn't have a ton of feel for it and doesn't use it much in games. He throws strikes with all of his offerings.

Some quick reaction/commentary: It's a solid pick. I personally liked Justin Dunn, another ACC pitcher, over Zeuch, but he went two picks before him. He's not going to be an ace, and it's not a profile you want at the top of the draft (say, Deck McGuire), but it's decent value towards the backend of the first round.