Last week, the Seattle Mariners announced that right-handed pitcher Zac Grotz had his contract purchased from Double-A Arkansas. Many people were probably wondering, “Just who the heck is he?”, as he has never been a top prospect, nor has he ever pitched above Double-A. The 26-year-old reliever has been a guy who I have been a fan of for a while, with my first mention of him on this site coming from the June 18, 2018 edition of Crash Course and then again after he was inked by Seattle in November. This is what I had to say about Grotz after he joined the Mariners organization:
“Grotz is one of my favorite minor leaguers. Personally, I was unsure whether or not he would be signed this offseason based on a mediocre 4.61 ERA with the Mets’ Class A Affiliate. When you look into his peripherals, however, you see exactly what he’s capable of. He posted a 2.83 FIP with a 9.34 K/9, a 1.35 BB/9 and a 0.45 HR/9 while falling victim to bad luck with opposing hitters reaching a .366 BABip. Based on his age, I would imagine he begins the season in Class A Advanced or Double-A and with strong results, could be a part of the 2019 Mariners based on the rebuild.”
Grotz spent the first four months of his tenure with the Mariners in Double-A, where he worked as both a starter and reliever. Over 57.1 innings, he managed to post a 2.51 ERA with a 2.72 FIP. Furthermore, he posted rather impressive per nine rates, including a 10.83 K/9, a 1.73 BB/9 and a 0.63 HR/9, while inducing grounders at an astounding 57.9 percent clip to a fly-ball rate of just 17.1 percent.
These numbers don’t seem like any fluke either, as opponents had a .312 BABIP and a 77.6 LOB percent, which both check in around the league averages, and his HR/FB rate was considerably higher than it has ever been (albeit against a reasonably small sample size). Throughout his minor-league career, he has always been a control-oriented ground-ball pitcher, walking more than 2.0 per nine innings just once (2.12 BB/9 over 17 innings in Short Season A); he has typically sat in the upper 40’s to lower 50’s in ground-ball rates.
Grotz landing with Seattle could be a blessing, or a curse. On one hand, the Mariners are known for tweaking the periphery of their 40-man roster quite frequently, meaning Grotz could simply be a place holder until Dealin’ Dipoto finds another guy on the waiver wire that he likes better. On the other hand, the Mariners don’t have much in terms of bullpen depth, especially after the Major League Baseball trade deadline, and aren’t in the playoff hunt as we head into the stretch run of 2019. With this in mind, they could give the 26-year-old some time to show them what he can do with the hopes that he can stick and be a part of the 2020 bullpen.
Grotz isn’t your typical call-up. The Mariners could very well designate him for assignment, only for him to never be seen on a major-league mound again, as he never gained any prospect ranking consideration pitching in the independent leagues and has been released by three different organizations — despite strong results with the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers. Alternatively, however, the Mariners, or any other team, could look past the lack of fanfare and look straight into his numbers, which prove that he has the potential to be a very strong asset to their major-league roster both now and in the future.