T.J. Zeuch Works On Specific Things At The Alt Site
At the end of summer camp, T.J. Zeuch understood that he had some work to do. The 2016 first-round pick topped out at 87 mph with a loopy slider during workouts, and that wasn’t going to play in the big leagues.
Under normal circumstances, the 25-year-old would have found himself in the Triple-A Buffalo rotation, trying to get himself right through the grind of a five-month season. But with the minor leagues on ice because of the pandemic, Zeuch instead worked out the kinks at the Blue Jays’ alternate training site in Rochester, N.Y., where he could focus on development rather than results.
“Not going out and actually competing against another team every day, that did kind of suck,” Zeuch said. “. . . But at the same time, having an experience like that is kind of invaluable, where you can work on certain things and you don't have to worry about your numbers . . .
“Being able to go out and throw in these simulated games and just work on one specific thing or two specific things is really a valuable, valuable time.”
Zeuch joined Toronto late in the season, logging 11.1 innings over three games, one of them a start. His bread-and-butter sinker averaged 92 mph and his ability to induce weak ground balls pushed him back up the depth chart.
More importantly, Zeuch's growth underpinned the Blue Jays' belief that academy-style development should play a more significant role in the grooming of players.
While the exact fate of the minor leagues is uncertain, Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro pointed out “the general movement of Major League Baseball is to listen to the general managers and have a greater reliance upon development at complexes.”
“Teams have advanced everything—from the way that we coach and develop players, to the use of technology, to the advancement of training tools and resources, and understanding player health and putting player health at a greater premium,” Shapiro said.
“The wide discrepancies in facilities in the minor leagues, the amount of travel, the substandard nutrition, all those things are somewhat counterproductive for a certain age and level of players."
To that end, Toronto's limited instructional league and Rookie ball programs all drew on lessons learned from the Rochester experience, while the club’s expected offseason opening of a state-of-the-art player development complex in Dunedin, Fla., will only accelerate the organizational push on that front.