On the same day that pitchers and catchers reported, the Yankees inked former Mariners pitcher Tony Zych to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training. The 29-year-old Zych has been in the league since 2015, but the last time he threw a pitch was in 2017 due to a surgery to repair a biceps/shoulder injury, as well as Thoracic outlet surgery in 2018.
Despite the injury troubles he’s had throughout his career, Zych has been effective when on the mound. The righty didn’t get much time on the field in his first two seasons, pitching in just 32 innings total, but did have a much more significant role with the Mariners in 2017. In that season he posted a 2.66 ERA in 40.2 innings with 35 strikeouts. Zych is mainly a three-pitch pitcher with his slider, sinker and four seamer.
One thing that stands out about his game is his ability to keep the ball in the yard. Although he’s hurled less than 100 frames in the majors, Zych has only allowed three homers in his career. However, he has yet to pitch with the juiced ball so that could be something to look out for in spring training.
Another thing to note was Zych’s ground ball rates. In 2015 and 2016 he got batters to get on top of the ball exactly 50 percent of the time. Coincidentally enough, he made opponents ground out 49.5 percent of at-bats in 2017. Zych’s ground ball rates have consistently stayed above league-average, which FanGraphs has marked at around 44 percent. It could be that Zych’s rates go down once he’s exposed to higher amounts of innings, but it is interesting to see how consistent he has stayed so far.
Zych also excels against hitters on both sides of the plate. Right-handed hitters own a .218/.328/.271 career slash line against him, paired with a 1.59 ERA, which is dominant on his part. The story isn’t much different when facing players in the other box, as lefties have hit at a .215/.308/.366 clip against Zych. Being able to pitch against either side will definitely help Zych’s case to make the team with the three-batter minimum rule being instituted this upcoming season.
We’ve seen players such as Mike Tauchman and Gio Urshela make their way to the Yankees and have breakout seasons after under performing with their previous teams. Zych is in a similar situation, but instead he’s not coming off of a subpar season. He’s coming off of a recovery from some major injuries for the last two years. The Yankees have revamped their medical staff and have hired top names in the industry such as Eric Cressey, and have a new pitching coach in Matt Blake. If they can help Zych stay healthy, he may be able to get back on track and revive his MLB career. Even if he falls short in his quest to make the big league roster and starts the season in the minors, it’s a step forward either way.