Mid-Season Prospect-Palooza: Pleased to Meet You, Zack Littell

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== First in a series of mid-season prospect reports ==

Now that we’ve figured out how the weirdo draft rules work, we understand the 11th round is an important one.  The way the bonus pool works, teams end up taking a bunch of “lowball bonus” players (guys with no leverage) for several rounds leading up to the 10th.  Of course they want good players, but only good players who will sign for a small amount of money.

Starting with the 11th round, anyone drafted can sign for a “free” $100,000 (in that it doesn’t count against the bonus pool).  So the teams start picking again based on “who they want” (within reason) rather than just cheap signability.

That’s a long way of saying that the guys picked in the 11th round are likely to be more interesting than the guys picked in the 6th through 10th.  Maybe I just should have said that.

Anyway, now that I know that, I’ve been following this year’s 11th-round pick Jeremiah “Jay” Muhammad, who’s been struggling mightily, a little closer.

But it didn’t occur to me to look up who was the 11th-round pick the year before.

Until I found a very interesting pitching line, and — lo and behold — the guy was the 11th-round pick from 2013.

His name is Zack Littell.  The young righty has an ERA of 5.27, which is a big drop from his 2013 ERA of 5.94.

So why care?

Because everything except the ERA is very cool.  In fact, at the moment he grades out first in the organization on the “Spectometer” chart.

As in:

  • 30 strikeouts in 27.1 IP
  • 2 walks — two!
  • Only 1 HR, and 6 XBH total
  • ISO-against of .083
  • WHIP: 1.06
  • HR/9: 0.3
  • BB/9: 0.7
  • K/9: 9.9

His problem has been 21 singles in those 27 innings, plus four HBP, and an unfortunate .444 BABIP with runners on base.  Thus the ERA.

That won’t all continue.  Not if he keeps up a 30-vs.-2 strikeout-to-walks ratio.  As you might expect, his FIP is 2.14.  (I don’t believe xFIP is available for minor-league parks.)

Littell was drafted as a 17-year-old high schooler out of North Carolina, and has the unusual status of being younger than even most of the Latin American prospects at Pulaski.  Only Brazilian prodigy Daniel Missaki is younger on the roster.

He’s listed at 6-foot-3, 190 at 18, and was reported to throw high-80s and “touching low-90s” in high school.  It’s likely that he’s added some velocity and will fill out a bit more.  For whatever reason, there does not seem to be any video of him online.

Sure, it’s only five games, and he’s given up 3 ER or more in four of the five, but Littell has certainly made himself one of the guys whom I’m going to pay attention to.

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