Prospect Weiss could be in Reds' bullpen mix

'It is pretty exciting to know there is an opportunity here,' right-handed reliever says

February 26th, 2016

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Like many Reds prospects, right-handed reliever Zack Weiss got his first glimpse of Cincinnati before he even reached the Major Leagues. Weiss, born, raised and living in Southern California, was among the players who appeared at Redsfest in December.

"It was exciting to see a new part of the country," Weiss said. "I was walking around with my girlfriend. After staying at the hotel, we walked down to the stadium. I was like, 'This wouldn't be a bad walk if you were visiting.' It would be pretty cool. It was a neat experience to see the dream."

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Weiss was invited to big league camp for the first time a couple of weeks later. In recent years, when the Reds were contenders, his chances of making the team out of Spring Training would have been slim. Because this is viewed as a rebuilding year, and due to his performance in the Minors, Weiss has a legitimate chance to make the big league club.

"It's pretty exciting to know you can come in, compete, do your best, and you can force management to make a decision on your performance," Weiss said. "It is pretty exciting to know there is an opportunity here."

The Reds' sixth-round pick in the 2013 Draft out of UCLA, Weiss was named this week as the organization's No. 22-ranked prospect by Following 11 2/3 scoreless innings at Class A Advanced Daytona, he moved up to Double-A Pensacola.

Over the 54 combined games, Weiss had a 1.98 ERA and was second in the Minors with 30 saves in 32 chances. Over 63 2/3 innings, he allowed 42 hits and 15 walks while striking out 90 with an 0.895 WHIP. He has four pitches, but he relies mostly on his 93-95 mph fastball and a slider.

Moved from starter to reliever as a junior in college, Weiss hadn't closed games regularly until last season.

"It was a cool experience," he said. "I enjoyed maybe coming into the eighth to get an out, but when you get to finish a game and shake the catcher's hand, it's a pretty fun feeling."

Reds manager Bryan Price has stated that all of the roles in the likely seven-man bullpen are currently undefined. J.J. Hoover is the odds-on favorite to be the closer, but Weiss could certainly contend for a spot in the middle-to-late innings with a good spring. During his throwing session of live batting practice on Thursday, all of the decision-makers from the Reds -- including Price, general manager Dick Williams and president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty -- were watching.

"There's a lot of people here in the organization who feel like he's very close, if not ready to pitch in the big leagues now," Price said. "He should be given every opportunity."