Scouting Yankee Prospect #46: Zach Kroenke

Kroenke Is A Polished Pitcher At The Lower Levels

The Yankees selected Zach Kroenke with their 5th round pick in the 2005 draft. With that pick, they picked up a crafty, battle tested left-hander from Nebraska University. Kroenke displayed poise, pitchability and a live arm in his first professional season and for those reasons and more, he's our Yankees' prospect #46.

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Vital Statistics:
Name: Zach Kroenke
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: April 21, 1984
Height: 6'2"
Weight: 205
Bats: Right
Throws: Left

When the Yankees picked Zach Kroenke in the 5th round of the 2005 draft, they knew exactly what they were getting. They knew that Kroenke gave them a polished lefty who could soar through their farm system at a rapid pace. He was held in such high regard by several organizations, primarily as a result of his college performance. With Nebraska, Zach pitched several big games down the stretch and in the College World Series for the Cornhuskers. And, in those games, he obviously came up big.

With multiple teams interested in his services, the draft was wide open for Zach Kroenke. But, Zach went into draft day with an open mind. And, true to form, the Yankees barely let on that there was distinct interest in the 21-year old southpaw.

"Well, you know, I was hoping to go in the top eight rounds or something like that," Kroenke told PinstripesPlus.com. "I had talked to a bunch of other teams more than I talked to the Yankees. But, when it happened, I was just happy to go."

Once he reported to the Staten Island Yankees, Kroenke showed the Yankees that they had made the right selection. Before going down with an injury to his glove hand, the southpaw went 1-1 with a 2.54 ERA in 39 innings of work. He had some slightly uncharacteristically high walk totals, but the strikeouts and hits per nine innings were all in line. Not only that, but he made quite an impression on his catcher, P.J. Pilittere.

"I think a guy like Zach [Kroenke] might be a hair [more] polished than some other guys because of his experiences in college," the Staten Island backstop explained. "He throws upper 80's, low 90's, but he can spot the ball up, down, in and out."

The experience of Kroenke is what makes him so interesting. With his big game experience with Nebraska, it gives him quite a leg up when he starts to pitch in front of large, and possibly hostile, crowds later in his career. Not to mention, he has also faced some powerhouse lineups in his day.

"I've already played in front of crowds of like 21,000, 22,000 people," Kroenke told us. "So when I come here, the crowds aren't even that big when the games do sellout. But, when there are a lot of people, you get some hostile crowds. You got a lot of drunk people yelling stuff at you in the stands."

His first professional season proved to be exactly what the Yankee organization had expected from Zach Kroenke. It appears that the southpaw and the Yankees are a perfect match. The scouting department saw him as being a player who could be a fast riser, and Kroenke has the same aspirations. But, he does realize the realities of being a Yankee.

"I say, if I'm good enough, they're going to bring me up," he said. "I have a long way to go before worrying about breaking into a rotation with Randy Johnson. Right now, I'm more focused on working on my game and focusing on what I need to do. But, I take it as an honor to be part of this organization."

Year

Team

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2005

Staten Island

1-1

2

39.0

30

15

28

2.54

2005

GCL

0-1

0

2.0

4

0

2

4.50



Repertoire. Fastball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. Not blessed with an overpowering heater, Kroenke relies much more on location and guile. But, that's not to say that he's your typical soft tosser like former Yankee, Brad Halsey. In fact, his fastball ranges anywhere between 88-91 MPH. With good movement and location, he will be able to more than get by with it throughout his career. In addition to that, his "pie throwing motion" could be corrected with professional instruction, and many scouts believe that could lead to a couple extra ticks on the radar gun.

Other Pitches. Thanks to the high seams of a college baseball, Kroenke developed a strikeout pitch in his devastating slider during his years at Nebraska. But, when he arrived in Staten Island in 2005, the low professional seams gave him some fits. Now, his slider is not what it was in college, but it is still a plus pitch. Zach's changeup is also becoming more and more of a weapon for him as well. If he can maintain two strong secondary pitches, he'll find success in his career. Again, though, the name of the game for the former Cornhusker is location.

Pitching. In his college career, Kroenke was much more of a strikeout pitcher despite his less than explosive fastball. But, now that he is in the pros, he'll need to rely much more on his good pitch location and pitching aptitude. He's shown above average control, but he simply needs to keep his emotions in check when things are not going his way. If he can do that, he has the uncanny ability of getting out of a jam with a double play ball. Without such a strikeout weapon any more, the double play is just another option.

Projection. Zach Kroenke obviously doesn't possess the overpowering stuff to put him at the top of a big league rotation. However, his arsenal is just good enough to make him a middle of the rotation type of pitcher. Coming out of a big college program, he's extremely polished and figures to move quickly through the organization. With his ability to change speeds and locate his fastball, Kroenke looks like he should make a Major League appearance at some point, no matter what the circumstances.

ETA. Late 2008. This may seem like a slightly quick route to the big leagues for this 21 year old southpaw; however, we've already mentioned how polished he is. So, it seems likely that he may follow a similar path to the big leagues as former Yankee, Brad Halsey. Nonetheless, he appears to be destined for Charleston in 2006.

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