After spending a little bit of time looking through Baseball America's site, I stumbled upon a new name among their prospects of the week (Prospect Hot Sheet). Richard Zagone. A left-handed pitcher out of Missouri, he had a 3.88 FIP cumulative this year with an FIP of 3.38 for his minor league career. So who is he and why hasn't his name been mentioned before?
Well the reason why we haven't heard his name being mentioned is that he pitched to a 4.89 era this year between Delmarva (low A) and Frederick (High A). That's just over a run higher than his FIP. While having a higher era than FIP is not too unexpected thanks to team defenses being worse at the lower levels, it is unusual to have such a large difference. More surprising is that his BABIP (Batted balls in play or basically the percentage of how many balls in play are considered hits) wasn't too high at only .327. So how does a pitcher produce such a disparity between FIP and ERA while allowing a fairly normal BABIP (pitchers typically have around a .300 BABIP)?
Easy, by giving up a .390 BABIP with runners in scoring position (RISP) and a .355 BABIP with runners on. Both of these BABIPS are much larger than they should be and should regress. It also suggests that Zagone probably has some sort of mechanical problems coming out of the stretch as he starts to walk more batters and strike out fewer.
In any case there is good news about Richard Zagone. Probably the most exciting thing is that even with a somewhat elevated BABIP he still had fewer hits than innings pitched. His groundball rate is high at 49.9% which is very good. His strikeout rate and walk rate are both pretty average, but can be improved. If his strikeout rate diminishes at higher levels he will probably be placed in the bullpen and could become a late-inning set-up man in the majors. If he figures his stuff out he should be on track to be a part of the Orioles bullpen, especially if he begins to get more groundballs with runners on. If he can do that he will probably start getting more double plays behind him which should allow him to last longer through games. Worse case scenario he will work out as a LOOGY.
Looking at this video from his college days shows interesting mechanics with a very high leg kick. I have to imagine that he could easily pick up a mph or two with some tweaks in his mechanics and with that speed should come more Ks. His fastball currently hits 90 according to MASN and depending on some tweaks could probably range from 88-90 consistently.
According to PGCrosschecker, in college he was throwing mainly fastballs and sliders with a developing change-up. He really needs a change-up or some other third pitch to go after righties with as sliders tend to get hit by opposite-handed batters.