Rob Zastryzny spent three years at MU as a starting pitcher. He was arguably Missouri's ace in his final year, compiling a 1.21 WHIP, a 3.37 ERA, and a fairly impressive 3.42 K/BB ratio on a team that wasn't so good, going 18-32 in the Tigers’ first year of SEC competition.
Looks like Lackey and Rondon headed to DL. Zastryzny and Pena to be called up. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 19, 2016
For his efforts, Zastryzny was taken in the second round of the 2013 MLB draft, going to the Chicago Cubs, a pretty fortuitous place to go, seeing as the North Siders are now arguably the best team in baseball.
Zastryzny has spent roughly three and a half years in the minors, a pretty short amount of time for a pitcher of his caliber. That's not an insult to him by any means, it's just that pitchers getting the call up at a younger age usually have more inspiring numbers. He's 17-16 with a 4.60 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP. Not exactly world-beating stuff.
But a closer look at Zastryzny's numbers tells a different story. His numbers have been consistently getting better as he's moved through the various minor league levels. He has especially improved this year, with a 1.21 WHIP a 2.48 K/BB and a .229 BAA (Batting average against) in 81 innings at the Cubs' AAA affiliate. He's also doing this at three years younger than the average AAA player.
A look at his numbers in college tell the story of a pretty consistent innings-eater, averaging about seven innings per start in his last year at Missouri. He doesn't strike out a ton of batters, but he isn't going to walk a bunch either. In other words, his ceiling at the major league level is probably a back-to-middle-of-the-rotation starter who's going to be a stable arm the manager can turn to. The fact that he's a big left-hander doesn't hurt either. Those types of pitchers are pretty valuable nowadays.
FanGraphs previewed Zastryzny before the season started and listed him as the Cubs 16th best prospect, which isn't bad considering the amount of talent in that organization at the time. A quick summary listed his command as average-plus, depending on the day. Some more consistency could do him good, but it sounds as if he's headed in the right direction.
As for why the Cubs are calling him up right now: They're probably looking for some stability in a bullpen that lost Pedro Strop to a significant injury and just sent John Lackey and Hector Rondon to the DL.
This could also be a tryout of sorts for Zastryzny. You can never have too much pitching in a big-league system, but if he continues to develop like he has been, he would be a valuable prospect to a major league team starving for arms. If the Cubs don't need him, they could use him as a tool for the bullpen in September and (maybe) October, then flip him in the offseason.
All in all, it's good to see another Tiger make it to the Show. Congrats, and best of luck to Rob in his new role.