Prospect Watch: Zach Haake

Zach Haake (pronounced like the word hockey) was a 6th round pick by the Royals in the 2018 draft.  The 6’4″ right-handed pitcher out of the University of Kentucky had somewhat of a tough college career pitching both out of the pen and in the rotation.  Haake is another one of those tall, lanky, hard-throwing arms the Royals targeted from the 2018 draft.  Picked ahead of him were Singer, Kowar, Lynch, Bubic, Bowlan, and Cox.  But don’t discount what Haake can do on the mound because he was the seventh pitcher the Royals took.

The RHP throws his fastball in the mid-90s consistently.  I’ve watched some game film on him over the last few day and his fastball range was from 93-96.  He lacked command with the pitch because he is slightly rotational with his top half and that pulls him offline.  The fastball has some arm side run and comes out of a really smooth release.  There is also an above average change up that gets LHHs out consistently.  The pitch has good arm side run and sink.  Haake also throws a slider that he shows as a curve with his glove between innings.  The pitch isn’t always sharp but he throws it with decent velocity from the low-to-mid 80’s.  It has some glove side break and some sink but I think he could really sharpen it up going forward.

Haake posted a 2.85 ERA as a starter for the Lexington Legends this season.  He gave them a chance to win in all but two starts this summer when he allowed five and six runs in less than 3.0 innings.  In professional baseball, if you give your team 6.0 innings and 3 runs or less every time, you will play for a long time.

I was not surprised when I looked at Haake’s splits and saw he has reverse splits.  The change up is much more effective against LHHs than the slider is against RHHs.  Haake posted a 1.12 WHIP against LHHs and a 1.35 WHIP against RHHs.  RHHs also hit .057 higher.

Haake posted a 10.70 K/9 rate at Lexington.  His walk rate was a little higher than you’d like from a starter at 4.28 BB/9.  His home run rate was extremely low for a guy who gets more fly balls than grounders.  Haake gave up just two home runs all season.  Haake’s groundball rate was 38.9% over the 2019 season in Lexington.

There are a few things to be concerned about for Haake going forward.  The first is that he needs to lower his walk rate and gets better command inside the strike zone.  The second is that he is able to maintain his 2.5 HR/FB rate.  There has to be regression at some point, especially with the new super juiced baseballs being used in AAA.  The third is that his slider gets sharper and he gets more swings and misses.

I don’t know Haake’s developmental history but I’d love to see him experiment with some sort of split or fork.  I think it could really be beneficial as a strikeout pitch against RHHs going forward.

Haake is a really good option for the Royals moving forward.  As Dayton Moore likes to say, he will get the chance to start until he can’t.  However, his future might be in the pen simply because there isn’t room for him in the rotation.  I think his fastball will play up out of the pen in short stints and Haake already can get LHHs out.  Haake is another one of those 2018 Royals draft picks who could very easily be in the big leagues in a variety of rolls for a long time.  I’m ready to see him at the next level in 2020.

Picture from the Lexington Herald.  No photographer was listed. 

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