TORONTO -- The Blue Jays needed to restock their Minor League system following a series of major trades over the last 12 months. That process began Thursday night when the club selected college right-hander T.J. Zeuch with the 21st overall pick of the MLB Draft.Toronto continued its long-standing trend of
TORONTO -- The Blue Jays needed to restock their Minor League system following a series of major trades over the last 12 months. That process began Thursday night when the club selected college right-hander T.J. Zeuch with the 21st overall pick of the MLB Draft.
Toronto continued its long-standing trend of drafting tall, athletic pitchers in the early rounds by taking the 6-foot-7, 225 pounder from the University of Pittsburgh. Zeuch went 6-1 with a 3.10 ERA for the Panthers and consistently hits 93-95 mph on a sinking fastball that's designed to induce a lot of groundballs.
The Blue Jays have selected a college pitcher with their first pick of the Draft during each of the last three years. Dating back to 2009, the Blue Jays have taken a pitcher with their first-round pick every year except when high-school outfielder D.J. Davis was picked 17th overall in 2012.
"I'm feeling very excited. My first initial feeling when they said my name was relief," Zeuch said in a conference call with reporters. "I've been working at this since I was five-years-old throwing a baseball for the first time. I fell in the love with the game then, and I knew this was what I wanted to do. Getting a chance to play professionally is a dream come true."
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The Blue Jays have two more picks on Day 1, at No. 57 and No. 66. The first of those two selections is compensation for not signing high school right-hander Brady Singer following the 2015 Draft.
The Draft continues on Friday with Rounds 3-10. The MLB.com preview show begins at 12:30 p.m. ET, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 3-10 beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
Zeuch's biggest asset is his fastball, but a lot of the talk leading into the Draft was whether his secondary pitches were good enough for the next level. He throws a slider and a changeup but it's the curveball that has shown the most improvement of late.
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Toronto had scouts at each of his starts for Pittsburgh this season and also watched him pitch in the Cape Cod League last summer. There was noticeable improvement in the curveball during that time, and Zeuch believes he turned a corner with the pitch in his final outings of the NCAA season.
"It has come on a lot, in the last few weeks especially," said Zeuch, who models his game after Adam Wainwright. "Coming out of high school, my curveball was a pretty weak pitch, something I definitely wanted to improve upon.
"I definitely didn't expect it to be my best pitch at this point on the road, but I think there's still a lot of improvement for it. I think playing for an organization like the Blue Jays can help me a ton developing that pitch and making it even better."
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Zeuch was recently named to the All-ACC second team and allowed 24 earned runs while striking out 74 over 69 2/3 innings. Blue Jays director of amateur scouting Brian Parker does not believe there will be any signability concerns for the 21st overall pick, which comes with an assigned value of $2,285,100.
"Obviously we usually take a lot of pitchers but in this case he was the best guy left on our board," Parker said.
Gregor Chisholm has covered the Blue Jays for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.