'21 Draft pick Calvin Ziegler turning heads at Mets camp

March 3rd, 2022

NEW YORK -- No American baseball scouts were filtering over the northern border during the spring of 2021, due to the Canadian COVID-19 lockdown that closed the country to nonessential traffic. So Calvin Ziegler had a choice: stay in Canada, essentially forcing teams to scout him solely on video, or wrap up his high school career stateside.

Ziegler chose the latter path, attending the TNXL Academy outside Orlando, Fla., where dozens of amateur scouts could see him pitch. The Mets in particular took a liking to Ziegler, selecting him in the second round. When top pick Kumar Rocker subsequently did not sign, Ziegler became the top-rated Mets prospect from last year’s Draft.

“He’s impressive,” farm director Kevin Howard said. “Whenever you get a guy with that movement profile and that type of stuff, it’s exciting. And I think for being such a young guy, he’s got a lot of pitchability to go with that.”

Following a mostly inactive summer in which he threw some bullpen sessions but did not appear in games, the 19-year-old Ziegler is in Port St. Lucie, Fla. for his first Minor League camp leading into his first professional season. He may not have come to the Mets with the same hype as Matt Allan and J.T. Ginn, widely considered the two best pitching prospects in the organization. But Ziegler has been turning heads early in his career with a sinking upper-90s fastball that lies at the heart of his arsenal.

“Obviously after I got drafted, there were expectations no matter what,” said Ziegler, the Mets' No. 13 prospect. “I feel like for me, mentally, I didn’t really change what I was going to do. I was basically just going to try to come out here and compete as well as I can.”

Had Canada not been in lockdown last spring, Ziegler likely would have come to the States for various elite showcases, as well as with the Canadian national team, giving scouts ample opportunities to watch him pitch. Raised in Kitchener, a suburb of Toronto, Ziegler was certainly on the radar of Major League teams throughout his high school career. But the Mets were not necessarily on his. Asked what he knew about them prior to being drafted, Ziegler laughed and said: “I knew they were in New York.”

The more he learned, the more excited Ziegler became. Growing up, the right-hander’s favorite pitcher was Max Scherzer, so he is eager for a chance to meet the three-time Cy Young Award winner and new Mets hurler once Major League Baseball’s lockout ends. Other than that, Ziegler describes himself as a typical teenager. He enjoys video games and has recently become interested in cooking. Steaks -- “a little garlic basting on it, you’re ready to go” -- are a particular specialty.

Just 19 years old, Ziegler will need to practice patience; he’s still likely two to three years away from making the Majors. The Mets are nonetheless excited about the prospect of having him, Allan and Ginn form the core of the Mets’ next wave of starting pitching, potentially balancing a farm system that has been heavy on position players but light on pitchers over the last half decade.

“There’s not a lot of bad things to say about him at this point,” Howard said. “He just needs to get experience.”