Back in March, I tried to bring some attention to Royals relief prospect Tyler Zuber. Zuber was a 2017 sixth round draft pick who got very little to sign. However, he was expected to move fairly quickly as a relief guy. I wrote that I thought Zuber would be the next top relief prospect after Richard Lovelady got to the big leagues.
Zuber had a solid year starting in Wilmington and finishing in a Naturals uniform. I saw him pitch twice late last summer. I liked what I saw. Zuber has shown a four-pitch mix and seemed strong both times I watched him. He should be a big league bullpen arm soon.
The stats back it up as Zuber saved 21 games between the Blue Rocks and Naturals. The Royals seemingly are grooming him to be a late-inning guy, perhaps even a closer. His K/9 rates weren’t as high this year as the last several seasons, but as guys move up the ladder they tend to have fewer strikeouts as hitters get better. Also, it’s hard to keep striking out 14 guys per nine.
What did impress me was Zuber’s 1.73 BB/9 rate at NWA. Zuber threw strikes at a 64.1% rate and struck out just about one out of every three batters that stepped up to the plate. When you combine the two levels, Zuber posted an 11.10 K/9 rate. When you give up less than two free bases for every 9.0 innings you throw, you are in a really good spot. Combine that with just 34 hits allowed all year and post a WHIP of 0.90, you are in great shape. That’ll play as they say.
I expect another solid season out of Zuber. He will probably end up in Omaha sooner rather than later and will have to adjust to the MLB ball which will bare watching. Zuber will be Rule 5 eligible after the 2020 season so the Royals will have to decide whether or not to protect him next year. After this season, and if health stays on his side, the easy answer will be yes.
Photo by Tim Campbell from the NWA website.