After being limited by injuries in his first full professional season, T.J. Zeuch is eager to make developmental strides in this year's Arizona Fall League.
Zeuch, 22, made two trips to the disabled list for a back injury while with Class A Advanced Dunedin, the first of which cost him roughly two months during the heart of his season.
"It was definitely a quick lesson in patience," said the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect. "For the first three weeks I just had to sit around and do nothing, and I think that was the hardest part of the whole process. Once I was able to get going and start doing some rehab and working out, it was a lot easier for me to handle."
The 6-foot-7, 225-pound righty still fared well during his truncated stint in the Florida State League, where he finished with a 3.38 ERA and a 46-to-17 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 58 2/3 innings (12 appearances/11 starts). What's more, Zeuch, with his advanced four-pitch mix, furthered his reputation as a ground-ball machine by recording three times as many ground-ball outs as he did outs in the air.
Now pitching in the Fall League, Zeuch, the Blue Jays' first-round Draft pick in 2016 (No. 21 overall), began his offseason campaign by tossing three perfect innings with four strikeouts in his first start for the Peoria Javelinas on Saturday.
But even with Zeuch's immediate success, the Pittsburgh product is keeping his primary objectives in focus this fall.
"Obviously having missed such a large part of the season with an injury I need some more work to maintain that starter role, and this is a great opportunity to face some great competition and get some more work in," Zeuch said.
"It's a big learning opportunity. Get better at reading hitters, and some of these guys have Double-, Triple-A or even big league time. We have great catchers who I talk with and learn from them, kinda get their perspective on things and learn different ways to use different pitches."
Blue Jays hitters in the Fall League
J.D. Davis, OF -- Davis followed up his breakout 2016 campaign in the Florida State League with a similarly strong showing in his first taste of Double-A, hitting .249/.361/.379 with 34 extra-base hits and 20 steals over 128 games with New Hampshire. Set to play much of the 2018 season at age 26, the undersized outfielder possesses an intriguing combination of tools and secondary skills.
Lourdes Gurriel, SS/2B -- Gurriel would rank fourth on Toronto's Top 30 Prospects list had he not signed (a seven-year, $22 million deal) at age 23. Injuries limited the promising middle infield to just 64 games in his stateside debut -- he played 46 games in Double-A -- during which he batted .229/.368/.339 with five home runs.
Max Pentecost, C/1B -- Pentecost was named a mid-season and post-season All-Star in the Florida State League this year despite playing in just 72 games, two shy of tying his career high. The 24-year-old produced when healthy, hitting .274 with nine homers, and he was back behind the plate for the first time since 2014, before a rash of surgery-requiring shoulder injuries threatened his career.
Blue Jays pitchers in the Fall League
Andrew Case, RHP -- Case struggled to advance beyond the Class A level during his first three seasons -- he served a 50-game suspension in 2016 after failing to attend a mandatory drug test -- before putting it all together to pitch at three levels including Triple-A in 2017. Altogether, the 24-year-old right-hander, who relies on a sinker-slider pairing, posted a 2.86 ERA over 66 innings (50 games) while going 12 for 17 in save opportunities across the three stops.
Jackson McClelland, RHP -- Another reliever coming off a breakout regular season, the 2015 15th-rounder split his year between the Class A Lansing and Dunedin, going 15 for 16 in save situations while compiling a 1.34 ERA and .209 opponents' average in 53 2/3 frames (45 appearances). A 6-foot-5 right-hander, he's said to feature a fastball that reaches 96-97 mph.
Danny Young, LHP -- The 23-year-old left-handed specialist was highly effective against same-sided hitters this past season, as he held them to a paltry .167/.237/.236 slashing line in 97 plate appearances. Though nothing he throws is overpowering, Young is naturally deceptive and knows how to keep hitters off balance with his three-pitch mix.