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Preseason Check-In: Zach Dezenzo

A 12th round senior sign, Dezenzo had some of the best raw power in the 2022 college class and offers some defensive intrigue.

Syndication: Asheville Citizen-Times Maya Carter/Asheville Citizen Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

A Canton, OH native, Zach Dezenzo was one of the top players in the state in the class of 2018 and likely would’ve had some pro interest if not for a strong commitment to Ohio State, where he would go on to be a 4 year starter for the Buckeyes. He was a solid performer as a freshman in 2019, batting .250/.318/.440 with 10 HRs in 242 PAs while playing mostly shortstop, but a huge 33.5% K rate held the production back. After losing a season to the pandemic in 2020, he took a sizable step forward in 2021, slashing .302/.382/.550 with a much more palatable 24.6% strikeout figure, making all 42 of his starts at shortstop.

While the improved productivity was certainly welcome, it didn’t quite get him back into draft consideration, so Dezenzo would return to Columbus for his senior year. First, however, he took part in the inaugural MLB Draft League season, where his performance was loud. In 61 plate appearances with Frederick, he hit 6 homers and 4 doubles, helping fuel a massive .339/.393/.732 slash line. He struck out 20 times, but put out some nutty hitting data that showed definitively that there was a carrying tool in his kit in the form of raw power. The MLBDL performance ended up being a preview for what would end up being an explosive senior year with the Buckeyes- now splitting time between shortstop and first base, Dezenzo set career bests across the board, slashing .319/.413/.701 with 19 HRs in 242 PAs, striking out at a 20.7% clip.

With a combination of strong upperclass production and elite exit velo, Dezenzo became an intriguing senior sign option in the 2022 draft. While he was likely considered as a cost saver on day 2, he ended up making it to day 3, when the Astros made him their first college selection of the day in round 12. He’d eventually sign for a low six figure bonus, and would get into 28 games for Low-A Fayetteville before season’s end, getting time at 1st, 2nd and 3rd base. His contact woes followed him to pro ball, as he struck out in 31.6% of his trips, but he was productive on the whole with a 109 wRC+ on a .255/.342/.402 slash and 4 HRs. It would’ve been nice to see him really hit the ground running as an older prospect, but pro ball is an adjustment for everybody regardless of the level, and he held his own despite not performing explosively.

Entering 2023, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dezenzo assigned to either of the A-ball levels, but I’d expect that he ends up breaking camp with Asheville, as third base options are limited at the lower levels of the system right now and I expect that to become his primary position. He was a solid college shortstop, and is far more athletic than most players his size, but the bar is simply too high at the pro level for him to stick there, and 2B feels like an awkward fit for his physical profile since he has good arm strength. I would imagine that he takes some starts in the outfield at some point as well, as he can project in either corner.

As the defensive profile comes into focus it will be easier to envision how Dezenzo might fit onto a big league roster, but the pressure is mostly on the hit tool. He’s a great in-the-box athlete, but it’s a definite power over hit approach with big swing actions, so there’s a real chance he just won’t be able to hit enough to move up the ladder. I give him a real chance to make the adequate contact he needs to be an intriguing bench piece though, as he has reasonable command of the strike zone and true 70 grade power, so he really only needs to be a 35 hitter to offer meaningful offensive impact. He’ll need to move quickly given as he’s turning 23 soon after the start of the season, but he could quickly create some intrigue if he gets his feet under him offensively.