A native of Palos Heights, Illinois, Zach Lewis was originally selected by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 33rd round of the 2014 MLB Draft; he did not sign, opting to return to Wabash Valley College in Mount Carmel, Illinois for his sophomore year. Lewis then made his way to Wichita State University for the final two years of college, where he threw 156 innings over 38 games (26 starts) for the Shockers across 2016 and 2017. Despite decent college work, Zach Lewis was not drafted after his final spring at Wichita State; it was only after the Chicago White Sox signed him as an undrafted free agent on June 25, 2017 that he finally joined the pro ranks despite four sustained years of solid production across his JuCo and college career.

But once with the Chicago White Sox, Lewis didn’t waste much time making an impression. Over 12 games (eight starts) in the Arizona League with the AZL White Sox this summer, Lewis was 6-1 with a 2.72 ERA, and he allowed just 46 hits and 11 walks against 45 strikeouts over 53.0 innings pitched. A classic workhorse overachiever with a gritty nature that overcomes middling stuff, Zach Lewis may mildly surprise the Chicago White Sox over the next few years. Below, we’ve got a full scouting report, game video, tool grades, and more on the 22-year-old (DOB: May 24, 1995) pitching prospect.

Zach Lewis, Chicago White Sox — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: August 10

Four-Seam Fastball (45)
Control is ahead of command. Lives down in the zone but can pull off and lose release point on occasion. Typically flat with very little life or downward plane, but as the game wore on he got some mild cut action on the four seamer. Couldn’t always control where that cut would take the ball, though. Lived at the knees in the upper 80s and to 90; every time he touched 92, it was up out of the zone. That said, it’s very free, easy low-effort velocity from a three-quarters slot and as Lewis refines his mechanics, he should see an accompanying velo bump. Velocity: 88-91, T 92.

Two-Seam Fastball (40)
Good wrinkle to show, especially to lefties and down and in to righties; slightly slower than the four-seamer, but good arm-side run with noticeable late fade. Potential for a good ground ball weapon as he further learns to manipulate grip and release point. Should go to it more often, especially to pair with his breaking ball; as this particular August 10th game wore on, two-seamer command proved more pinpoint than four-seamer and his arm action and mechanics could turn this into a true, effective sinker. Velocity: 87-89, T 90.

Curveball (45)
Mostly consistent 11-to-5 break, though Lewis will drop his elbow at times, get under the ball, and leave it as a slurve at 10-to-4. Good command of it; loves to start the curve at RHH front elbow and drop it in on the inner half. Enough feel to throw it for a called strike early in the count and also bury it late to miss bats. I think it’ll remain a curve as he develops, even with a lower arm slot and that occasional sweeping action. Lewis has enough arm speed and feel for spin to keep it a true curve, but he must continue to get in front and on top at release, especially with his arm action. Either way, a majority of his strikeouts will come via the breaking ball. Velocity: 75-78, T 79.

Changeup (45)
Arguably Lewis’ second-best pitch behind the curveball. Good hump and some very late arm-side action with tumble. Control ahead of command here as with the rest of his stuff, but Lewis has nuanced feel for it side to side. Rarely will leave it above the knees. Trusts it enough to let the pitch do the work; good arm speed and mechanics, with no obvious tip-off to hitters. Starting to learn how to sequence it into at-bats, but not afraid to go to it early, especially against LHH. May overachieve with this pitch; it wouldn’t surprise me if he develops an above-average two-seam sinker/changeup combo over the next few years. Velocity: 80-82, T 83.

Control/Command (60/55)
A strike thrower now with a consistent delivery that will allow him to continue to be a strike thrower in the future. As with most rookie ball guys, control is slightly ahead of command, but not by much — and Lewis has the feel for his entire arsenal that suggests both are and will continue to be above-average. Likes to challenge hitters; not afraid of pitching to contact.

Toes the rubber on extreme first base side, only to stride very, very closed to the plate. Open foot strike at landing, but throws significantly across his body, accounting for life on his stuff and certainly some deception, especially to RHH. True three-quarters release point with very little spine tilt. Usually does a good job to keep his elbow up and stay on top of the ball, even with three-quarters release, but he lacks a significant downward plane even with a 6’3″ frame. Free and easy mechanics and arm action, low-effort guy with a fastball than can jump to the plate at times. Even with radical close-off, Lewis has a repeatable delivery ideal for a starting pitcher. From the stretch he has two wrinkles, including a quick pitch slide step; tendency to leave balls higher in the zone on slide step as his arm doesn’t always catch up in time and his elbow drops. Also from the stretch, before he comes set, he shows the ball to hitters in his glove; that’ll need to change. Generally works quickly.

Zach Lewis Scouting Report — 2017 Game Video

Zach Lewis Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

A bulldog-type pitcher who will have to grind it out after going the UDFA route, there’s a lot to like about Zach Lewis in the coming years. I think he’ll quickly start to realize the importance of throwing his two-seamer and changeup more often, learning how to pair them off teach other and becoming a pitch-to-contact sinker ball guy instead of trying to spot up his pedestrian four-seamer. Because of his arm angle and release point he doesn’t have the stereotypical overhand 12-to-6 curveball, but his breaking ball is sneaky good and he can drop it in on both sides of the plate. He’ll learn how to consistently make sure it stays 11-to-5 and doesn’t flatten out, but even now it has legitimate swing-and-miss potential—especially when sequenced well. Take all that together and add his four years of polish from college, and Zach Lewis may prove himself to be a good find in the undrafted ranks. Yes, the Chicago White Sox need to test him against more age-appropriate competition, but 2017 represented a very strong introduction to professional baseball for the righty and he might sneak through the minor leagues as something more than organizational depth over the next few seasons. He fills up the zone and isn’t afraid to attack hitters and pitch to contact; as he continues to learn the nuances of his arsenal, that contact should become weaker and primarily on the ground.

zach lewis scouting report chicago white sox baseball 2

Zach Lewis Scouting Report — Future Projection

Expect Zach Lewis to get a shot at the starting rotation in Low-A Kannapolis for 2018; he’ll be 23 years old in May, and ideally will prove himself in Low-A over the first half of next year to get a shot in High-A for the second half and jump on track for his age. There’s a long way to go from here to there, but Lewis must move quickly through the low minors if he’s going to put himself on the radar for the Chicago White Sox. Especially with his college pedigree, you’d hope he has enough to succeed in the South Atlantic League and work his way up the ladder over the next 12 months.

Long term, all realistic signs point to a future low-leverage long reliever in the very back end of a big league bullpen. However, there’s something about his track record and command profile that tells me he’ll overachieve and stay in the conversation for a rotation gig at least longer than a player in his position otherwise normally would. At the ultimate level, that could manifest itself as a swingman/spot starter at times with primarily middle relief in his future. Regardless, at his age, 2018 itself will set the tone for the righty: a strong year with Lewis’ profile leaves the door open for a fringy prospect future; a pedestrian summer at 23 years old in Low-A will quickly brand him organizational depth. For whatever reason, I’m optimistic about Zach Lewis. In a few months, we’ll see whether that optimism is warranted.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Low-leverage long relief role with length; may have the chops to overachieve and be a swingman/spot starter (40/42.5)

MLB ETA: 2021


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