Rancho Cucamonga, California —— Completely out of baseball exactly two years ago, Zach Reks now finds himself on the fast track through the minors with the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s a remarkable story, really; Reks was a student at the University of Kentucky in 2015 with no designs on spending his studies playing college ball, let alone a future in the pro ranks, when an opportunity presented itself to join the Wildcats.
And while that story worked itself into a feel-good ending—with Zach Reks drafted by the Dodgers this June—the second part of it really has yet to be told: can the unlikely prospect go from forgotten college student to big league material? If the first two months of his professional career are any indication, the outfielder is well on his way.
While most college draftees will spend their very first pro summers in rookie ball, with the most aggressive assignments occasionally pushing them to Low-A, Reks has blown past both and now finds himself an integral part of the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes’ end-of-season playoff run. Slashing .365/.434/.459/.893 through 20 games with Rancho entering Friday (and .345/.431/.410/.841 in 139 at-bats over 41 games overall between three levels—rookie Low-A, and High-A—here in his first professional season), Reks is fast creating the reputation of a hitter far more advanced than maybe even the Los Angeles Dodgers had realized.
“It doesn’t really matter where I am, I’m just making sure I’m taking it all in,” Reks told Baseball Census during a pre-game interview on Wednesday. “I’m just trying to be grateful for what I have, and get used to the professional process, and how things work here. I’ve been given good opportunities along the way, and I’m just trying to take advantage of them.”
“It’s definitely a different experience in pro ball,” the outfielder continued, smiling. “It’s a bit more like summer ball here, except it all counts. This is your career. It’s definitely different than college. But I think if you take it one day at a time, and one second at a time, you’ll be just fine.”
That measured, mature approach defines Zach Reks, especially as far as it comes to professional baseball. He’s not flashy with plus-plus power or speed, and he doesn’t play a particularly dynamic game anymore than his good overall athleticism might suggest, but he has a knack for taking good at-bats and finding the barrel. It’s all a product of his remarkably simple, straightforward approach to hitting that has carried over from Kentucky, and now through three different levels of professional baseball in a whirlwind summer.
“I’m just ‘see ball, hit ball’ right now, and obviously I have an approach, but all I’m trying to do is stay consistent with my game and pick some brains along the way,” Reks said, pointing out an obvious benefit of playing for multiple affiliates in a single year: the ability to see how a lot of other players do things. “I like seeing what other people do, and I’ve been given a good opportunity here to be around guys who have been doing this for a couple years now. It’s cool to see what works for some people, and what doesn’t work. DJ [Peters] is putting together a monster season, and I’ve picked his brain a couple times. If I’m going through hard times, I’m absolutely going to pick someone’s brain and be like ‘hey, how do you deal with a slump, how do you deal with this or that,’ and take it from there.”
Reks hasn’t slumped much, of course. Even beyond his remarkable slash lines, the outfielder has quickly proven himself to be a reliable top-of-the-order threat with good gap power and an aggressive streak on the base paths. It’s all the better that he’s doing all this during a playoff run that right now has the Quakes nearly poised to clinch a postseason berth and a shot at the California League championship. What a wild ride it’s been to get here—with the potential to pick up a ring in High-A—all the way from June’s MLB Draft.
“I didn’t even know that there were rings for minor league championships,” Reks said, laughing. “I did not know that. So, yeah, this is fun. But really, it’s just a blessing to be playing baseball again. Two years ago, I wasn’t even playing. It’s gone really fast, but it’s a blessing to be able to put on a jersey again.”
Whether his Rancho Cucamonga Quakes come away with a championship or not, one thing is for certain — Zach Reks has made the most of his first summer in professional baseball.