Today’s player profile is a guy I’m having a hard time figuring out, 2002 2nd round pick Zach Segovia. Since being drafted in 2002, Zach has seen his share of ups and downs, including Tommy John surgery in 2004 and what appears to finally be a return to full health in 2006. With much uncertainty surrounding the Phillies bullpen entering the season, his name has been mentioned a few times as a possible candidate. Entering his age 24 season, he’s seen his performance fluctuate wildly, and his ERA hasn’t always matched his peripherals, couple that with his sometimes less than awesome stuff, his possible conditioning issues, and he really is impossible to project.
First, lets take a look at his numbers, season by season, and see if we can figure them out.
2002, GCL: 34.1 IP, 2.10 ERA, 21 H, 3 BB, 30 K
An impressive debut at age 19 for Zach. He kept his hits way down, allowed only 3 walks, and struck out 30. Expectations were obviously high after the strong start.
2003, GCL: 9 IP, 4.00 ERA, 8 H, 0 BB, 6 K
2003, Lakewood: 49.2 IP, 3.99 ERA, 63 H, 14 BB, 27 K
Clearly something was up here. His hit rate went through the roof, and while his control was still solid, his K rate plummeted. The Phillies knew something was wrong, and sure enough, he had done ligament damage in his right arm and needed Tommy John surgery, causing him to miss the entire 2004 season.
2005, Clearwater: 144.2 IP, 5.54 ERA, 168 H, 48 BB, 83 K
At first glance, the ERA is awful, and he allowed a ton of hits with few strikeouts. However, there is a silver lining, that being his great control. With pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery, command and control are normally the last things they regain, but Segovia still displayed great control in his first season back, and maybe more importantly, he pitched 144 innings, showing that his arm was healthy.
2006, Clearwater: 49.1 IP, 2.19 ERA, 39 H, 12 BB, 41 K
2006, Reading: 107 IP, 3.11 ERA, 90 H, 24 BB, 75 K
In his second season back, his trademark control again remained intact, but this time, his hit rate jumped right back in line with where it should be, though his K rate was still lagging behind. I like to look at walk rate and strikeout rate separately, as I think K/BB can sometimes be misleading, but he does average 3 K per BB, which is decent. The other great asset which he has retained is the ability to keep the ball on the ground and not allow home runs. In 394 IP as a pro, he’s allowed only 30 HR, a very respectable number. In 2006, he allowed 10 in 156.1 IP, again not a bad total. Last season he also induced 220 groundballs to only 170 flyballs, a solid ratio for a guy who doesn’t strike out many guys.
So, if we look at his numbers overall, they are pretty decent. His 2005 ERA is bloated, but that’s to be expected for a guy in his first year after Tommy John. Now we have to look at his stuff. Depending on who you talk to, it appears the majority opinion is that he hasn’t regained his pre Tommy John velocity, and two years removed from the surgery, he probably never will. From most scouting reports of him last season, he was consistently in the high 80’s with his fastball, hitting 91 or 92 on occasion. He has at least average secondary offerings, and his stuff plays up a bit because of his excellent control, but it does leave us with a tough time projecting his future.
Command and control guys, or finesse pitchers if you will, have much less room for error than guys with overpowering stuff. Often times, flamethrowers are overrated by scouts, and even despite terrible numbers, are more well thought of as prospects because of the notion that they “might put it all together one day” and become special. However, a larger percentage of these guys never make it, and end up flaming out because of lack of control. On the other side, finesse pitchers who are able to outmaneuver minor league hitters often struggle when they get to the big leagues, mainly because they fall victim to nibbler syndrome, where they try and be too fine and hit corners, end up walking a ton of guys or always end up behind in the count, which results in fat pitches hit to all quadrants of the park. The obvious best solution is a guy with good stuff who also has good control. But those guys don’t grow on trees.
So, where does that leave Zach? Well, I’m not really sure, and in doing my grades and projections, he was a tough guy to figure out. I gave him a solid B grade in my prospect grades, and I feel like he could be a starter at the big league level, but I wrestle with that thought now. His command is obviously good enough to be a starter, his groundball tendencies are there, but is the lack of overpowering stuff going to kill him at the next level? Is he going to be better off as a 7th inning reliever, where he doesn’t have to face a lineup 3 times? As a #5 starter, I think he’d be a fine addition on most teams. On a mediocre team, he might even be the 4th best option. On the worst of teams, he might even be a credible #3 eventually. But on this current Phillies team, he might be better suited to pitching in relief. I think he’s going to spend time at Ottawa this season before he makes it to Philly, unless he’s absolutely lights out the rest of spring training and most of the other candidates in the bullpen implode. I’m not a fan of low strikeout guys pitching in high leverage situations, but with Segovia, I really have no idea what to expect out of him at the next level, so I’ll go with the “never say never” line until we have a better read on him.