2016 Stats: 16.0 IP, 1,12 ERA, 3.75 DRA, 89 cFIP, .270 oppTAv, 25.8 K% and 7.6 BB%
Year in Review: After playing on seven different minor-league and fall-league clubs and starting the 2016 season in Double-A Tennessee, Zastryzny made his major-league debut late this season. He was the first pitcher drafted by the Theo Epstein-era Cubs to make it through the system to the big league team. The 2013 second-round draft pick was called up with Felix Pena in mid-August to help relieve a beat-up pitching staff, and he took advantage of the very limited opportunity.
The Missouri product only made it into eight games but gave up only two earned runs over 16 innings of work. In the small sample, he posted impressive K/9 (9.56) and BB/9 (2.81) rates.
Zastryzny, who was a starter in college and in every stop of his minor-league career, throws mainly a fastball, cutter and curveball, throwing that curve about a quarter of the time. His starting experience came in handy when he made three long relief appearances of 40 pitches or more, helping save the bullpen a bit down the stretch run.
The Cubs were impressed enough to put Rob Z on the National League Championship Series roster against the Dodgers, who struggle mightily against left-handers. He never made it into a postseason game, but the vote of confidence bodes well for his future with the club.
Looking Ahead: When the offseason started, Zastryzny looked like a prime candidate for an increased bullpen role. With Travis Wood and Aroldis Chapman departing in free agency and Mike Montgomery likely sliding into a rotation slot, he suddenly became the most seasoned lefty reliever on the 40-man.
The Cubs front office has since changed the situation dramatically, acquiring Brian Duensing, Rule 5 pick Caleb Smith, and Koji Uehara (a righty who has reverse splits), and re-signing Zac Rosscup, who sat out 2016 with an injury. After the Cubs completed their deal for closer Wade Davis, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported that Zastryzny is likely to start the season in Triple-A and function as a depth starter in 2017 if one of the Cubs’ starting five goes down.
While Des Moines might not be as glamorous as Chicago, this is likely welcome news for Zastryzny. The Cubs clearly still view him as a starter in the long-run, and plenty of space is due to open up there in 2018. Zastryzny will be 25 in 2017, his rookie status is still intact, and he won’t even be eligible for arbitration until 2020. If things go according to the Cubs’ plan, we likely will see very little of Rob Z in Chicago this year and then a lot of him in the years after.
Lead photo courtesy Dennis Wierzbicki—USA Today Sports