I figured we'd attack the prospects coming back in the Hunter Pence and Michael Bourn trades like we did the draft. Next up is Josh Zeid, where we look at his ceiling, floor and ETA to the majors. Consider this an extended take on the newest top prospect.
One of the more talked-about prospects in the Phillies deal, Zeid is an older prospect who was drafted in 2009 as a college senior. He pitched last season in Low-A and did very well, striking out over 9 batters per nine innings. However, he did it in a league that was much younger than he was.
On the plus side, his strikeout numbers (which he continued in the Arizona Fall League), are a product of a good fastball, good command and one of the best sliders in the Phillies' system. It's easy to get big strikeout numbers in the Sally and comparable leagues with a great changeup. Just look at this article over at Scouting the Sally, which breaks down the phenomenon.
Bumped up to Double-A this season, Zeid saw his walk rate jump and his strikeout rates fall slightly. Philly had tried him in the starting rotation in Reading, but moved him back to the bullpen before he was traded. Even before the season, Baseball America and John Sickels were suggesting Zeid might be better served as a reliever. His fastball sits anywhere from 90-94, but has been clocked as high as 97 in relief roles. He's also developing a changeup, which could make him a very effective late-inning reliever.
Here's the problem with Zeid. He's a fairly safe prospect as a reliever, but so were Danny Meszaros and Chia Jen-Lo. For that matter, so was David Berner, who was recently released. Relievers are just volatile, especially in the minor leagues. If Zeid is truly switching to the bullpen, he's going to have to keep up his solid numbers and start walking a few less for his floor to be someone like Jeff Fulchino.
Big slider, good fastball velocity immediately will make Astros fans think of Brad Lidge. I'd suggest, however, that they look a little further back at another Astros starter-turned-reliever in Octavio Dotel. Another player acquired in a big-name trade (the Derek Bell-Mike Hampton trade), Dotel started as a starter before moving into the bullpen. Even as a starter in the minors, Dotel had much higher strikeout numbers than Zeid, which is why many people suggest Zeid's ceiling is more as a 7th or 8th inning guy.
ETA to majors
If he's a reliever, Zeid could make the big leagues out of spring training next season. His stuff and control are probably good enough right now, so the big adjustment will be pitching out of the bullpen effectively. By that, I mean staying consistent from inning to inning in relief.
Video and bibliography after the jump...
His biggest strength is his fastball, which will sit 93-94 in relief, and he creates good deception with his delivery. His slider is his better secondary offering and he does throw a changeup, but he won’t need it as much as a reliever.
In shorter stints, he's consistently working into the mid-90s with a solid slider for a breaking ball. Zeid has gone from a struggling starter to a player that looks to have a very real future in the seventh or possibly even eighth inning as a big-league reliever.
The Astros also get Josh Zeid, an organizational arm who might surface as a middle reliever.
Zeid has an 89-94 MPH fastball and a solid slider, but his lack of a consistent changeup was a problem when used as a starter. I had him as a C+ pre-season. His erratic performance drops that to a C, but in relief he could be quite useful.
Instead of picking on someone his own size, Zeid struggled and was just 2-3, 6.80 in 11 starts to begin the season. Moved back to the bullpen—the role he's best suited to fill—he thrived, with a 24-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 16 innings to go with 10 hits allowed (including two home runs). Zeid's best-case scenario is as a solid middle reliever, though he'll likely never quite be eighth-inning material.
I saw Zeid last season in Lakewood and saw a pretty non-descript relief pitcher. He had helium at the end of last season, but that excitement has dissipated with an aggressive promotion and subsequent struggles.