Mesa, Arizona —— Nobody ought to mistake him for a front-line pitching prospect, but Kansas City Royals right-handed pitcher Zach Lovvorn is showing consistency, command, and feel for his full arsenal out at the Arizona Fall League this week, and that may bode well for his future with the organization. A 23-year-old initially drafted out of an Alabama high school in 2012, Lovvorn made it to Double-A Northwest Arkansas this year, where he finished 4-9 with a 4.83 ERA over 31 games (18 starts). In 117.1 innings there, he allowed 142 hits (.298 opponents’ batting average) and 34 walks while striking out 93 hitters — unremarkable, but workable long-term in the right role considering his three-pitch arsenal and command profile.
Now, out at the Arizona Fall League this month, we’ve got some video of the Kansas City Royals pitching prospect from his most recent outing on Friday afternoon with the Surprise Saguaros on the road in Mesa. Here, you’ll see his full arsenal (fastball, circle changeup, 11-to-5 curveball) in game action at Sloan Park:
And to come more full circle on Zach Lovvorn, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen him in 2017. Here, you’ll see a few different video angles of Lovvorn’s delivery, mechanics, and stuff while he was pitching back in late May for Northwest Arkansas in the Texas League:
Right around average across the board with his stuff and ability, Zach Lovvorn sat 90-93 mph with his fastball this week in Mesa. It’s a pretty straight pitch that plays up some at the knees with a little bit of downward plane and some arm-side life. He pairs it with a circle changeup that sat 82-84 mph for me in Arizona, and an 80-82 mph curveball with 11-to-5 break and good feel for depth to both sides of the plate. Lovvorn has reportedly thrown a slider in the past, though I didn’t see it in May or October; it’s possible the slider from his amateur or early pro days simply morphed into the more traditional curveball he’s shown across 2017. Especially to righties, that curveball is proving to be a formidable pitch at times with tight spin and pretty good command feel. In both my looks spanning the last few months, the changeup has lagged behind some in regards to pitch life and feel, though Lovvorn undoubtedly likes to throw it and isn’t afraid to use the pitch to draw contact.
Where does Zach Lovvorn go from here, then? He’s not a front-line rotation arm and he may not even reach a back-end ceiling when it’s all said and done, but I like his pitchability and aggressiveness to fight with middling stuff and draw contact. That type of profile screams ‘long reliever’ at the big league level, and maybe that’s where Lovvorn winds up next year or the year after with the Kansas City Royals. I do think there’s an outside shot he throws some swingman innings, though, and could get pushed to a #5 role in the rotation at his very best, especially with his liberal use of the changeup as a viable way to attack left-handed hitters and show enough wrinkles to face a lineup multiple times.
He’s far from flashy and projectable, and could very well top out as a AAA/AAAA up-and-down/organizational depth type of pitcher if he proves too hittable moving forward, but there’s a lot to like about Lovvorn’s consistent mechanics, delivery, command, and sequencing. That, coupled with the thought of his curveball playing up some in a shorter bullpen role — even low-leverage long relief — could make him part of the big league conversation beginning next spring. Let’s see how he fares in the Pacific Coast League, first, but Zach Lovvorn is a sleeper-type who could provide some value to the Kansas City Royals in 2018 or 2019 if he’s put in the right role at the right time.
We’ll have plenty more Arizona Fall League video on Zach Lovvorn as the season wears on over the next month, too — subscribe now to the Baseball Census YouTube channel and get the jump on that.
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