Never truly considered a top prospect for the Blue Jays, T.J. Zeuch made his MLB debut Tuesday night in Atlanta against the Braves and demonstrated why he’s been growing his prospect clout throughout this year.
He had to be put on the 40-man roster this winter anyways, or else he would be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft, but he’s well worth the spot just by his performance in Triple-A Buffalo.
Zeuch won’t overpower pitchers and strike a ton out — only averaged 4.50 K/9 through the season — but he was able to keep a 3.69 ERA through 78 innings for the Bisons.
The key to his year in Buffalo was the insane amount of groundballs he was able to get and hopefully rely on some stellar infield defence. His 57.1 GB% was the third-most across all Triple-A pitchers with at least 70 innings pitched. And that rate continued into the majors, as Zeuch had a total of six groundballs through his four innings Tuesday night.
Unfortunately for him, Wilmer Font’s opening appearance — that usually goes without any major damage — gave the Braves a 2-0 lead with Zeuch heading to the mound in the second. Already down, he was depended on to keep the game within some realm of possible reach.
Early on in his debut, he was able to demonstrate why he’s up with the club in the first place. In his first three innings, he was rolling with only two singles allowed to his name and three strikeouts as well, including a three-up three-down fourth.
His slider, that he relies on to get those groundballs and outs, was especially working early.
TJ Sink showing he can slide! pic.twitter.com/1VAHEizuDo
— Ryan D (@RyanDifrancesco) September 4, 2019
He threw a total of 29 sliders, earning five swinging strikes and three called strikes. It hovered around 83 MPH during his appearance.
But as the night went on and he threw more of the 73 pitches he tossed, he became to unwind a bit and allow some control issues to show its ugly face.
After not allowing a single walk before, Zeuch walked both Acuna and Freeman in the fifth, but still had two outs with Josh Donaldson stepping up to the plate. Unfortunately, his luck got worse and a wild pitch advanced the runners but they ended up not really needing that help from Zeuch.
With a full count, Donaldson hit a deep 108.5 MPH double that cashed-in both Acuna and Freeman to give the Braves four total runs.
Luckily, he was able to finish his debut with a strikeout served to Matt Joyce and complete the inning.
It’s an appearance that perfectly sums up some of the young pitching the Blue Jays currently have. They have innings showing immense promise and potential to get future outs for the big club, but then just other innings that fall apart at the seams due to some unfortunate quality coming from the mound.
There will be many more opportunities for Zeuch. Already with his first three innings as an example of his ability, if he’s able to keep up some of that production and get outs, he should be given a chance to stay in the 2020 rotation.
At 24-years-old, Zeuch is nearing the edge of whether he should be considered a prospect or not. But with his first season in Triple-A wrapped up and a decent performance for his major-league debut, he might be able to carve his own name into the mind of fans as names to include in the pitching staff when the Blue Jays are back to winning more games than they lose.
For his first big-league experience, the team ended up losing 7-2 to the Braves, so the pain only got worse.
Fellow September call-up, Anthony Kay, is expected to make his debut this weekend and while he has a little more prospect hype behind him, Zeuch’s four innings could be set as a pretty solid benchmark.