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What scouts think of Zach Plesac

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Here’s the experts have to say about the Tribe’s newest pitcher

Mathew Carper

Zach Plesac makes his major league debut today for the Cleveland Indians, weather permitting. We’ve already talked about who the 2016 12th round draft pick is, we even interviewed him last year, but what do scouts think of him?

Before the 2016 MLB Draft, Plesac was ranked the 456th best player by Perfect Game. He struck out 49 in 48.2 innings for Ball State before the elbow injury ended his junior season. Over three seasons with the Cardinals, the right-hander went 20-9 with a 3.06 ERA and 193 strikeouts against 87 walks in 241 1/3 innings. He was the MAC Freshman Pitcher of the Year in 2014, when he went 12-2 with a 2.11 ERA as a reliever, then posted a 3.27 ERA in 107 1/3 innings as a starter in ‘15.

Here’s what Jeff Ellis of Indians Baseball Insider had to say about Plesac when the Indians drafted him:

Zach Plesac is the nephew of Dan Plesac and another player in this draft I got to see in person. He was a two-way player for Ball State often playing outfield when he was not pitching. I can tell you as a sophomore he was viewed as just as good if not better prospect than fellow MAC pitcher Eric Lauer. Lauer improved and became a first rounder while Plesac struggled with injuries and inconsistency. He is a big kid with the beginnings of two secondary pitches. The change is the better, and a fastball that sits mid 90’s. He showed improvement with his walk rate and strikeout rate this year before injury. A good athlete, he has an outside chance at being a back-end starter, but profiles best in the pen.”

It’s not the most partisan breakdown, but Zach’s uncle Dan Plesac had this to say about his nephew to MLB.com after the Indians drafted him.

I credit the Indians for recognizing the talent that he has and for being willing to take a shot on him. I know it’s going to be a good organization for him. Listen, the reputation that the Indians have for developing their Minor Leaguers, and their Minor League pitchers in particular, is as good as anybody in baseball. Their training and medical staff has always gotten rave reviews. This is the right team for Zach at this point. He couldn’t have gotten drafted by a better team than the Cleveland Indians.

Indians scouting director Brad Grant also had some brief comments about Plesac when the Indians drafted him:

He, unfortunately, got hurt, but with our track record, our medical staff, with just how we feel about being able to rehab those guys and bring those guys back, we felt like we were able to get a lot of value there with Zach in the 12th round.”

A lot of value indeed.

Earlier this season, two websites updated their scouting profiles on Plesac, making adjustments based on his impressive in-season performance as well as his spike in velocity.

The first report is from Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs.

Plesac’s velocity is up. He sat 90-94 in college and was back in that range following Tommy John, but this season his fastball is averaging about 94 and bumping 97. His changeup is plus, and he is throwing a lot of strikes, something that he didn’t do as an amateur. There’s still not a great breaking ball here and that might limit Plesac’s role, but he’s starting to look like a near-ready bullpen option, at least. Cleveland continues to do quite well developing college changeup artists.

The final profile comes from 2080 baseball’s Adam McInturff, who reevaluated Plesac following a start for Double-A Akron on April 25th.

Large, muscular build with durable features. Workhorse. Fastball could play in the big leagues right now; projects as above-average ground ball pitch with occasional bat-missing ability if command sharpens. Above-average velocity with the durability to hold late into outings and throughout a pro season. Refining in-zone command, throws tons of strikes but loose over the plate. Projects for enough command to start games because of velo plus life. True curveball flashes sharp bite and shapely down action. New pitch to his arsenal since last viewing that could finish average. Slider is generally the better of his breaking balls, less consistent than usual this look, sharp bite, short tilt that acts more like a cutter. Upside of average pitch. Changeup mimics fastball action with late armside turnover. Too firm now, could be a usable pitch in starting pitching role against LHH with more separation. Dominates lineups with just his FB now, posts excellent walk numbers but would need to pitch outside the zone more if he were facing ML bats. Off-speed for strikes in best sequences, will need to trust and sequence soft stuff more. Works very quick, competes, all business. Delivery, pitchability and athleticism are average with plus mount presence. Plesac is an emerging prospect coming into his own a few years removed from TJ surgery. Ingredients of #4 starter if off-speed and command keep developing. Lots of ML tools, good bet to fit into a handful of lesser roles even if he falls short of that ceiling.