Mike McCann / Minor Leagues
ZACK GREINKE - TOP PROSPECT
By Mike McCann
It's always fun to be able to see some of the extremely talented minor league baseball players on their way to the major leagues. This year I was lucky in that the Royals first round draft pick in 2002 was playing for the Wilmington Blue Rocks (which is the team closest to me). Pitcher Zack Greinke was picked 6th overall last year and is considered the best prospect in the Royals system. It was a great experience to be able to see him pitch twice this season.
During the 2002 season, Greinke split time between the Gulf Coast Royals, Spokane and Wilmington. His numbers weren't overly impressive since he didn't pitch many innings: Gulf Coast (0-0, 1.93 in 4.2 innings over 3 starts), Spokane (0-0, 7.71 in 4.2 innings over 2 starts) and Wilmington (0-0, 0.00 in 2 innings in 1 relief appearance that I happened to be at). The Blue Rocks knew that he was definitely one to watch as they put him on the cover of the scorecard for the 2003 season.
I saw him pitch against Potomac on May 20. Going into the game, he was 6-0, 1.20 in 8 starts. In 45 innings, he had 42 strikeouts and 6 walks. In this game, he was definitely dominating. He retired the first 11 batters of the game. He allowed 2 hits, both doubles where runners were stranded on second, and no runs over 8 innings. He had 9 strikeouts and 2 walks. It's really amazing what a great player he is. And he's only 19.
Fate happened to be on my side for the next game where I saw him. I was able to see the Blue Rocks game on June 5 against Kinston. Greinke was supposed to pitch the night before, but the game was rained out. I saw him pitch the first game of a doubleheader. He was still perfect going into the game with an 8-0 record and a 1.31 ERA in 10 starts. In 62 innings, he had 57 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Again, he didn't disappoint. He pitched his first professional complete game shutout scattering 4 hits over 7 innings with 6 strikeouts and no walks. Only one runner made it past first base in the game.
In July, he was selected to the Carolina League All-Star team, but didn't pitch due to a back injury. He also pitched in the Futures game where many scouts touted his potential.
He was promoted to Wichita in early July. He went 11-1, 1.14 in 14 starts for Wilmington, pitching 87 innings with 78 strikeouts and 13 walks. He won his first start for Wichita, but didn't fare as well in his next two. Maybe it will take some time for him to adjust to the league and higher level of competition.
If you live anywhere near a Texas League stadium, I'd recommend going to
see him pitch sometime. You'll be able to see one of the premiere prospects
before he hits the majors. I'm sure that he will be in the Pacific
Coast League then the majors soon enough, I just hope that he continues pitching
as well as he has so far.
I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an email and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.