The Arizona Fall League is typically where teams send prospects as a last test before they decide whether or not to roster them in protection from the Rule 5 draft at the upcoming Winter Meetings. This could be the case for Zach Lovvorn, who was an 18-year old 6th round pick out of Oxford, Alabama holding a commitment to Samford University in 2012. This makes him eligible to be picked in the Rule 5, as the Royals try to decide if they have to protect him from other teams. It would appear that yes, the Royals do indeed, need to roster Zach Lovvorn on the 40 man roster before the Rule 5 draft.
Lovvorn had a great start to the 2017 season, by going 12.0 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 walks and striking out 16 batters in his first 2 starts. After that things got a little inconsistent before he moved to the pen after 13 starts. Zach continued to work every four or five days on regular rest up until the end of his bullpen time at which point he moved back to the rotation to finish the season. Lovvorn is working as a starter in the AFL, but his stats as a reliever were better. The exception was the ground ball rate which went down after moving to the pen. He is basically an even splits pitcher when it comes to right-handed and left-handed hitters with the exception, again, being the ground ball rate against RHHs is higher. I imagine that he will be a full time reliever when he gets to the big leagues.
Lovvorn works between 90 and 94. His fastball has early movement that continues throughout the flight of the pitch. It isn’t a sharp, late movement that is coveted but it is still effective, especially against LHHs away. But mainly, a fastball is better when it isn’t straight. The best pitch Lovvorn throws is his sharp curve. He can throw it for a strike early in the count, which he seems to be doing more of in the AFL, and then expand the zone and spike it. The pitch is truly a swing and miss offering. It is about 10 to 12 mph off the fastball coming in around 82. The pitch that lags behind the most is the change. It has armside fade and sink and at times, can be really tough for LHHs to pick up. But it isn’t as consistent as it needs to be. The video I watched on him in the AFL shows that it has improved in both movement and consistency since I saw him early this last spring in NWA. This holds true with the growth of his stuff as the summer wore into the late season.
Lovvorn uses a quick, compact delivery in which he lifts his hands over his head. He has had success because he has limited the free bases by only walking one batter every 3.5 innings. His strikeout rate isn’t extremely high but I think it will tick up out of the pen because he’ll be using his curve more and his velo will tick up as well.
Whatever the Royals decide to do with Lovvorn, pitching early next season in the big leagues with some other team, or as a September call up with the Royals, Lovvorn will likely be making his big league debut next year.
Photo Credits: William Bretzger