Padres’ third round selection Zech Lemond. Mandatory Credit: mlb.com
No that’s not a typo, his name really is Zech. And Zech is a pretty darn good pick for the Padres at the 86th pick in the draft. Baseball America ranked him as the 78th best prospect available, and Keith Law of ESPN had him at 36, which is quite the steal for the Padres. Reports are Trea Turner may sign to an underslot deal, which would help the Padres sign the late round value pick in Lemond.
Lemond opened this year as a reliever for Rice, but when ace Jordan Stephens won a free Tommy John surgery thanks to a torn UCL, it was decided that he would be stretched out for the rotation. This is automatically fantastic news, as his arm is still fresh and durable, meaning his risk of injury is lower than other high mileage arms (looking at you, Carlos Rodon). Even though he did get sidelined after five starts with elbow inflammation, the industry believes it was more of a precautionary action that reactionary. His arm will be fine by the time he’s signed and playing in the Padres’ system. His athleticism lets him repeat his delivery well, even if it is long. This quells the concern about the added usage hurting him more, and he should be fine as a starter in the minors for now. If he’s ineffective, transitioning to a high leverage reliever will be no issue for Lemond.
His huge, 6’4, 200 pound frame makes his mid 90s fastball really pop at hitters. He holds velo well late into his outings, and offers great run on the pitch. The fastball is his best pitch, ranking plus to plus-plus depending on the outing. His slider and curve are both plus pitches, and are unique from each other. His curve has good bite to it, with a big drop through the motion. He sometimes struggles to find a consistent release point on the pitch, and can leave some hangers, but that should go away with repetition. The slider has much more lateral movement, and sits in the mid 80s instead of the low 80s like the curve. The slider has very late movement, which gets some ridiculous swing and misses when he’s throwing it well. His changeup is below average, and has only an average ceiling with his current use. It has good velocity separation from the fastball but can be easy to spot out of his hand. The change is known as a platoon buster, and he will need to improve it to get lefty hitters out, and to become an effective starter.
His command of his pitches is still lacking, as he learns to throw them more often each outing. In relief, all he would need was a few pitches executed well, but as a starter he needs to throw well consistently. In addition, his control is still improving. As expected, relievers can walk more hitters and still work around it. As a starter he’s going to need to walk less to keep his pitch count down, last later into the game and avoid huge innings.
Lemond has some obvious obstacles to climb as he transitions from a high leverage reliever to a starter, but the ceiling is undeniable. He could be an easy number three starter, even a number two if he develops his changeup well. Getting him in the third round was highway robbery, as he grades out better than most pitchers taken in the second. Even though he won’t help the team score runs, you should be excited about Zech Lemond.