Meet Zach Willeman

Continuing on with TJ surgery survivors, it is time to have a glance at another right-hander who was selected by the Dodgers in the 19th round of the 2017 Amateur Draft out of Kent State University following his junior year. They did so fully aware of the required surgery. TJ surgery is now so common place that it is almost accepted as a low risk surgery but it does have a relatively long period of recuperation. For Zach Willeman it used up all of his 2017 professional season and delayed his fist professional appearance until July 26, 2018. He  was born in Toledo, Ohio and grew up in neighboring Napoleon attending Napoleon High School. It seems that the Dodgers and Willeman were not strangers to each other when he was drafted. The team scouted him dating back to his days as a Wildcat ace in high school. At Napoleon he lettered three years in baseball and basketball and one year in cross country running.On the baseball diamond he broke the single-season ERA (0.653) and strikeout (121) records as a senior and also broke the single-game strikeout record with 15. Willeman enrolled at Kent State University which is about a three hour drive from his hometown of Napoleon. With the Golden Flashes the 6’3”/200-pound right-hander had a three year career broken into three parts. The first two years at Kent he pitched strictly in relief. Over 41 appearances and 62.1 innings he posted an ERA of 2.75 along with 72 strikeouts and 44 walks. He had seven saves in 2015 and 14 in 2016. His scouting reports at that time suggested he had a workable fastball but had a not so workable breaking pitch and also has some control issues. From Baseball America:
“Willeman’s 90-95 mph fastball has plenty of sink and he can run it in on the hands of right-handed hitters. His curveball was a little loopier and slower this spring than it was last summer in the Cape Cod League, grading out more as a 40-45 pitch this spring. Some scouts believe he’ll end up back  in the pen as he has a deep stab in his arm action, but he showed fringe-average control this year as a starter.”
 From Perfect game: 
“Willeman transitioned to the Kent State weekend rotation this spring after being a highly- Successful closer over his first two seasons–a relief role he’s likely destined for again in professional baseball. Willeman did not find the success that many had envisioned as a starter; but he did show stuff that  still entices scouts. He usually worked in the 90-94 mph range with his fastball, generating solid arm side run; and while the curveball was erratic it still flashed as an above average pitch.”
 The second part of his college career came in 2017 as he was converted to a starting role. His year did not go as well as hoped. Over 13 starts he posted a 4.91 ERA along with 57 strikeouts in 66 innings and 32 walks. Even with a bit of a down year he did not go unnoticed as a student and baseball prospect at Kent. First, his strong academic performance continued with additional Mid-American Conference awards.
  • Letterwinner: 2015 2016, 2017
  • 2017 MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete
  • 2017 Academic All-MAC
  • 2016 Second Team All-MAC
  • 2016 MAC Distinguished Scholar Athlete
  • 2016 Academic All-MAC
 Secondly,in additions to his awards he was recognized by Baseball America among their Top 100 College Prospect list ranking 94. Jim Ellis of Scouting Baseball watched Willeman pitch and had him on his sleeper list until he noticed Baseball America’s ranking no longer made him a sleeper. Ellis had come to a  game tin 2016 to watch a matchup between Keegan Akin and Eric Lauder. He missed their part of the game but arrived in time to see Zach Willeman go to work. He then saw Willeman pitch as a starter in 2017. This by Ellis: 
“It was during this game, though, that a solidly built reliever caught my attention. Willeman was sitting 94 that day, hitting 95, and had the look of a starter. His off speed stuff was 88 or 89 that day, giving him solid separation. I knew from that game on that Willeman was a name for me to follow for the 2017 draft.Willeman is the Saturday starter for the Flashes this year. Not only was Saturday his first start this year, it was also his first start during his college career. Willeman and the Flashes faced off against  Belmont to open the season. It was an excellent first start, as Willeman went five and a third innings and did not give up a run on three hits and two walks. He struck out 10 of the 21 batters he faced.Willeman was a sleeper of mine until I saw him on the Baseball America top 100 college players list. He  is a player to watch. He has a chance to move up boards if he continues to pitch well.  I would not be surprised if he ends up a first rounder when it’s all said and done.”
 The third part of his college career ended shortly after the college season and he had TJ surgery. The Dodgers signed him  and at age 21 any return to college would have further delayed his shot at a professional baseball career. His long awaited debut came on July 26 with the Arizona League Dodgers. He pitched one inning against the AZL Indians striking out the side. After five appearances with the AZL team in which he posted an identical ERA and WHIP of 0.84 he was promoted to the Great Lakes Loons of the Midwest League. With the Loons in 8.1 innings pitched he posted a 2.16 ERA while striking out 10 and walking one. In his final appearance of the season he started and pitched three innings against the South Bend Cubs allowing only one hit, walking none and striking out three. Zach Willeman will turn 23 in March so his first stop most likely will be with the Loons in 2019. Will it be as a starter or in relief? I am guessing that he may have some three inning starts but ultimately I expect the Dodgers drafted him as a relief specialist especially in light of his college success in that role and his TJ surgery in 2017. 

This article has 33 Comments

    1. By Jon Paul Morosi @jonmorosi
      Dec. 22nd, 2018
      It’s rare that a blockbuster trade is the opening salvo of a team’s offseason, rather than the culmination.
      The Dodgers — with a strong farm system and vast financial resources — aren’t a typical franchise.
      Friday’s seven-player trade between the Dodgers and Reds raised more questions than it answered about the Dodgers’ 2019 roster. Saturday, sources indicated that the Dodgers remain in contact with the Indians about a trade that would send Cleveland ace Corey Kluber to Los Angeles.
      The Dodgers won’t trade Cody Bellinger — on whom they have five years of control before free agency — for Kluber, whose term could stretch to 2021 through club options. However, one source indicated the Dodgers are willing to discuss outfield prospect Alex Verdugo as part of a Kluber trade. The Indians’ trade dialogue over the past week has been heavier on Kluber than fellow right-hander Trevor Bauer, sources say, although at this point a major deal involving a Cleveland starter is not expected before Christmas.

        1. If the Dodgers wanted to trade for Stanton, several things would have to happen.
          1. The Yanks and Harper agree on a contract.
          2. The Dodgers trade for Kluber to free up Hill in a trade.
          3. Dodgers trade Hill to Yanks for Stanton.
          To get Kluber and create a spot in the outfield for Stanton, the Dodgers most likely would have to include Verdugo in a trade package for Kluber. Stanton’s contract would basically coincide with the years the Dodgers would have Verdugo under control.
          The lefty power would then be Seager, Pederson, Bellinger and maybe Muncy if he isn’t included in a trade for Realmuto or for Andujar who would then be part of another trade.
          The righty power would be Turner, Taylor, Stanton and maybe Realmuto.

  1. Merry Christmas to all the LADT community. The Dodgers are so blessed to have all of you as loyal fans.

  2. I just looked at a mlbtraderumor poll. Currently, 40% say the reds won the trade while 20% say the dodgers won. Just reporting the poll results you decide.

      1. Like I said, just FYI. Even if you don’t care, maybe, just maybe someone not as smart as you does find it of interest.

  3. MLBTR has a poll: Who won Dodgers/Reds Trade? Out of 1249 votes, 906 votes(72.54%) gave it an A or B. 40 votes(3.2%) gave it an F grade. Jut FYI.

  4. My bad. Rechecked and a new poll was added which had Harper in it. New poll wasn’t there when I voted. BTW I voted “B” for both teams.

  5. What I am going to do is simply look at one big trade before ST, including any FA signings. That is, on one side of the sheet jot down which players have been traded, etc by ST. On the other side jot down the names of those acquired either by trade or FA signings made possible because of trades. Then I can decide who won the trading period. That is, who won the war (no pun intended), not who won individual battles.
    On paper for 2019 the Reds won this battle if looked at in isolation. What happens after this with the two young prospects the Dodgers acquired? Do they become MLB players with the Dodgers or are they used as part of a lever to acquire a catcher, starting pitcher, etc? Only then can we assess this battle.
    In the final analysis, I am not very interested in how other teams fared. I am solely interested by ST if the Dodgers appear, at least on paper, better equipped for a WS run than they were in 2018.

  6. For what it’s worth, concerning Bryce Harper:

    The free-agent outfielder liked an MLB post on Instagram asking if the Dodgers were the favorites to sign him.

  7. Saw that Mushers, just sign him, six time all-star, former MVP, just turned 26, career .900 OPS

    For all the Harper haters, the kid has something most do not, passion and fire, the kid is a competitor. I wish the Dodgers had someone to light some fire in there ass over the past two seasons World Series. Maybe Harper would help fix the robotic feel of this squad and actually instill some emotion. Remember a guy who didn’t put up with BS and was considered moody in the Dodger clubhouse? Kirk Gibson.

    Who do you want in RF, Bryce Harper or Joc Pederson? None of this is our money, get one of the best and passionate players in the game and embrace him.

    1. Well I would not call myself a Harper Hater, but I am not a fan. He is a marvelous offensive baseball player, and nobody is going to compare him to Joc Pederson. He is certainly not much of a defensive OF, but he can hit the ball a long way. But then again, so can RH Giancarlo Stanton.
      It may not be your money, just as it wasn’t your money when the Dodgers had a $300MM payroll or paid $150MM in luxury tax from 2013-2017. It is not that the Dodgers will not pay players, they are just going to decide what is the best way to spend those dollars. Right now, the Dodgers need a catcher, RH bat (C, 2B, OF), starting pitcher (Legit Ace or Co-Ace) and more bullpen. They are $24MM below CBT threshold, and I assume that you think the Dodgers should blow by that $24MM and add another say $10MM? And not have anything left for what they need. OK that is one approach. I do not agree with it, but that does not make me a hater.
      I am curious with all of the fire and passion Harper possesses how is that when sandwiched between Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, Anthony Rendon, Jayson Werth, and Ryan Zimmerman, plus with Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Gio Gonzalez as the top three in the rotation, why didn’t the Nationals win even one NLDS in 4 tries. Not One! They even lost to the passionless Dodgers in 2016. He should not be compared one bit to Kirk Gibson until he and a pitcher like Orel Hershiser take a team on their collective backs and gets them a WS championship. Then he might be worth $300MM. Not if I were my money, but since it isn’t…


  8. Why is everyone voting who got the best of the trade? That’s just dumb. Evidently the trade accomplished what both teams wanted.

    Cincy got more MLB players and took on more dollars so that makes them the winner? In what vacuum?

  9. Hello, from Mexicali, I send you a warm hug and wish you all a beautiful Christmas Eve, it has been a pleasure to be able to belong to this great blog, it is my favorite … I hope that most of our purposes and wishes can be fulfilled, but the most important thing is to have health and be with the family. Merry Christmas!!

  10. Before I head off to Christmas Eve Mass, I want to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I hope all of your wishes come true. Enjoy friends and family and hopefully we Dodger fans will have something else to celebrate after Christmas Day. Pitchers and catchers are due to report in around 50 days.
    We wish you a very Merry and DODGER BLUE Christmas.

  11. Felíz Navidad para todos, que la paz, amor y alegría llenen a sus familias, que su vida se colme de bendiciones. Y que los Dodgers ganen la serie mundial

  12. Merry Christmas to all of you. Definitely the most thought provoking and intelligent thinkers amongst the Dodger blogosphere.

  13. To MT, AC, DC and all the folks here at LADT a safe Merry Christmas and happy New Years…
    Midnight Mass is coming soon and I am blessed and give thanks…

  14. Merry Christmas to you all! May you have a blessed Christmas, enjoy the time this wonderful holiday brings with your families and loved ones, God Bless you all!

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