Name: Calvin Ziegler
Weight: 205 lbs.
Acquired: 2021 MLB Draft, 2nd Round (TNXL Academy, Florida)
2022 Stats: 16 G (16 GS), 46.2 IP, 26 H, 26 R, 23 ER (4.44 ERA), 35 BB, 70 K, .261 BABIP (Low-A)
A native of Heidelberg, Ontario, Canada, a town of just 500, Calvin Zigler was forced to relocate to central Florida in order to keep his baseball dream alive due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, as the border between the U.S. and Canada closed for a time, making it difficult for scouts and evaluators to see the right-hander pitch. A senior at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School in Kitchener, he transferred to the TNXL Academy in Ocoee, Florida in January 2021, where he finished out the 2021 baseball season. With their second-round selection in the 2021 MLB Draft, the 46th player selected overall, the Mets selected Ziegler, signing him for $910,000 a few days later, roughly $700,000 below the MLB-assigned slot value.
The right-hander did not pitch in 2021, instead suiting up professionally for the first time in 2022. After impressing in spring training, the Mets assigned to the St. Lucie Mets, one of the youngest players in the league. He started the season off blazing hot, posting a 3.10 ERA in 29.0 innings with 11 hits, 18 strikeouts, and 48 strikeouts in his first 11 starts, but was put on the injured list in late May due to biceps tendinitis. He was activated in early June and made three more starts before being shut down once again, this time until August. He was noticeably worse, posting a 7.15 ERA in 11.1 innings with 11 hits, 14 walks, and 13 strikeouts. All in all, the 19-year-old started 16 games and posted a 4.44 ERA in 46.2 innings, allowing 26 hits, walking 5, and striking out 70.
The right-hander throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot with a long arm action through the back. His mechanics are loose, easy, and fluid and he repeats them well. There is probably not much projection left in Ziegler’s 6’0’, 205-pound frame, as he is already well built and solidly proportioned. The young right-hander goes after hitters and attacks them but has trouble locating fastball and secondaries and will need to work on refining his command to be more efficient. While the Mets wanted to limit the amount of innings Ziegler threw in 2022 in the first place, the right-hander was simply inefficient in many outings.
Ziegler’s fastball ranged 91-95 MPH in 2022, averaging 93 MPH. The pitch averages pedestrian spin rates comparative to the 2022 league average but was still effective due to its flatter approach angle and extension from how deep the right-hander able to push off the mound. Of the 559 fastballs that he threw that were recorded by Statcast tracking technology, 274 elicited swings and 68 were whiffed on, a 12% rate.
Complementing his fastball, Ziegler also throws a curveball and a split-finger changeup. His curveball sat 80-83 MPH in 2022, averaging 82 MPH. The pitch featured 50-58 inches of vertical drop and 1-9 inches of horizontal movement and was peculiar in that it averaged only 2170 RPM in 2022, resulting in a lot of weak flyball outs. The pitch had the highest whiff rate of his offerings and has above-average potential, but his command of the pitch needs to improve- he regularly threw the pitch way outside of the strike zone. He needs to get its release point to more closely mirror that of his fastball and changeup, because it is well above that of the others, telegraphing what is coming to batters.
His changeup sits in the mid-80s, sitting 83-86 MPH and averaging 84 MPH. As is typical of prep pitchers entering the pros, Ziegler did not use it much in high school and actually modified it when going professional, working with minor league instructors to develop a new grip. Although it shows promise, Ziegler will have to focus on developing the pitch into a more viable offering. He maintains his arm speed when throwing it well and the pitch has sudden fade and tumble in the zone but is still very inconsistent.
If you look at some of the other players drafted in the second round of the 2021 MLB Draft, Ziegler kind of sticks out like a sore thumb. Imaging a world where the Mets selected Joshua Baez or James Wood or Edwin Arroyo instead is a fun thought experiment, but none of those other options were doable given that the Mets selected Kumar Rocker in the first and needed to carefully manage the signing bonuses they were handing out to everyone else selected after. That’s not to say that Zeiger was a complete stretch where he was drafted, but better options existed in a vacuum. The Mets’ track record of developing high school arms over the last couple of years hasn’t really been the best, so here’s hoping Calvin Ziegler breaks that streak. He’s certainly got the raw talent to succeed, but the handful of red flags present in his profile muddy the waters.
Ziegler strikes me as the classic prospect that single-team prospect enthusiasts will overrate- an unheralded underslot prep pick whose stock gets pumped by the team mid-breakout, giving you the chance to snap your fingers and point ala Leonardo DiCaprio while exclaiming “look, the team I root for is so smart.” Don’t get me wrong, Ziegler is a nice little prospect and made legitimate strides with his stuff before a couple IL stints. Then he came back unable to throw strikes with backed-up stuff. The pitcher from the first half looks like a mid-rotation starter, while the one from the second half seems more like a reliever. Better health in 2023 will determine which is closer to reality.
Ziegler got jumped by his draft-mate Dominic Hamel due to the latter’s stronger 2022 performance, but there is a lot to like with Ziegler despite the middling performance at St. Lucie. He struck out the universe at Single-A, 35.6% of the batters he faced, but walks killed him, as he walked a whopping 17.6% of batters. That’s bad, no matter how you slice it. He clearly has the stuff to punch guys out, but constantly filling the bases with free batters will kill you at any level. If he can figure that out, though, he gets all the more interesting.