Noah Zavolas Makes A Name For Himself In Brewers Organization

Image credit: Noah Zavolas (Evan Moesta – Carolina Mudcats)

ZEBULON, N.C. — When the Mariners and Brewers swapped outfielders Ben Gamel and Domingo Santana in a trade last December, headlines announcing the deal rarely even mentioned Noah Zavolas’ name.

It was understandable under the circumstances. Gamel and Santana were established major leaguers. Zavolas, who joined Gamel in going from Seattle to Milwaukee, was an 18th-round pick from Harvard who had less than three months of professional experience.

Now that his first full season is underway, however, Zavolas is starting to make a name for himself.

Zavolas has been one of the early standouts of the season for high Class A Carolina. The 23-year-old righthander leads the Carolina League innings pitched, ranks second in ERA (min. 40 innings) and ranks third in WHIP. Overall he is 2-2, 2.81 with 37 strikeouts and seven walks in 48 innings.

“He attacks hitters and he’s very knowledgeable,” Carolina manager Joe Ayrault said. “I mean the kid went to Harvard. He studies the advance reports, gets after it, goes with his strengths and can attack the weaknesses as well. It’s very impressive to watch.”

Zavolas showed the mastery he’s capable of against Myrtle Beach (Cubs) on May 10. He threw all four of his pitches—an 88-91 mph fastball, 77-80 mph curveball, 81-84 mph slider and 80-82 mph changeup—consistently for strikes and kept them crisp and effective over the duration of his outing. He primarily used his fastball and curveball, but effectively mixed in his slider and changeup to keep batters flummoxed most of the evening.

He needed only 90 pitches to complete his eight innings and threw 71 strikes. He induced 11 ground ball outs, didn’t allow an extra-base hit and allowed only two batters past first base—one on a balk, and the other an error.

“He’s a guy who just gets outs,” said Carolina catcher Payton Henry, the Brewers’ No. 12 prospect. “He gets ground balls, he gets strikeouts, and that’s what you want in a starting pitcher.”

Zavolas comes with some pedigree. He threw Harvard’s first no-hitter in 17 years last season and won Ivy League pitcher of the year honors. Brewers general manager David Stearns, also a Harvard alumnus, said after the trade was completed that Milwaukee had targeted Zavolas in the draft only to be scooped by the Mariners.

Zavolas went from Harvard to short-season Everett to high Class A Modesto in a span of three months last summer, and then he was traded before the year was out in a whirlwind introduction to professional baseball. He reported to the Brewers’ complex in Maryvale, Ariz. early this spring to get acquainted with his new club and quickly felt at home.

“Overall, it’s been seamless,” Zavolas said. “I had a wonderful first experience with the Mariners last summer. Finding out I had been traded, that was a very wild night. But I was fortunate to be able to come out to spring training early and get the lay of the land. It was great to be out there and settle in and get a feel for the organization. The Brewers have been phenomenal in developing pitching and developing their prospects.”

While his stuff doesn’t light up a radar gun, Zavolas gets the most out of what he has in part because of his advanced ability to come up with a sound game plan and execute it.

The first time he faced Myrtle Beach on April 24, Zavolas went seven innings and gave up four hits and one run. Rather than rest on the knowledge he had already dominated the Pelicans once, Zavolas took what he learned from that outing and applied it forward, leading to an even better performance in the rematch.

“I felt like the curveball to that lineup, especially having faced them before, I had a little bit of a personal advance scout on them,” Zavolas said. “Early on I was able to really establish the fastball and use that to open up the repertoire. I think the curveball played very well, and I was able to sprinkle in both the slider and the changeup as well to keep them off both the fastball and the breaking ball.”

Zavolas’ ability to throw four pitches for strikes and execute a game plan seamlessly has him cruising through the Carolina League so far. With each successive outing, he’s making the case that he was more than just a throw-in to a trade of big leaguers.

“His work ethic, his intelligence, his stuff,” Ayrault said. “Across the board, it’s a great guy to have on your team.”

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