On December 10, right after the Arizona Diamondbacks selected him from the Baltimore Orioles in the Rule 5 Draft, the Marlins traded for relief pitcher Zach Pop. He’s a 24-year-old righty that has never played above Double-A, but he might easily be the reliever with the highest upside in the Fish when Spring Training begins.
His numbers read as if they were straight out of a video game. Simply put, Pop has been filthy since being selected by the Dodgers in the 2017 MLB Draft.
In 57 games and 80 1⁄3 innings, he owns a 1.34 ERA with a 0.91 WHIP. Pop has allowed only 1 home run, 5.4 hits per nine (H/9), and has struck out 80 hitters with his sidearm delivery and a two-pitch repertoire. Even better: opponents own a microscopic .172 batting average against him, as they’re 48-for-279 off Pop.
Part of the success the Canadian has enjoyed thus far is due to his knack for inducing ground balls, as seen below.
Year Team/Aff GB%
2017 LAD/Rk 63.6
2018 LAD/A 59.5
2018 LAD/A+ 66.7
2018 BAL/AA 69.1
2019 BAL/AA 61.5
A reliever during the entirety of his professional career, Pop has the upside to think he can eventually become, at worst, a respectable setup man in any bullpen in the majors.
Despite all of the early success though, there are some genuine concerns which surround the 24 year-old.
As illustrated, performance isn’t the issue here but more with how he will respond after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
If all plays out well with his recovery, Pop could remind everyone why he was the No. 19 prospect in the Orioles organization according to MLB Pipeline, especially with a team such as the Marlins who appreciates any young, emerging talent.
The environment will be a challenging one for him, as he will be in a make-or-break scenario. As a Rule 5 pick, the Marlins need to place Pop on their active roster and keep him there during the entirety of the 2021 season. Otherwise, he’d need to be offered back to his former club.
He will join a mix that is currently lacking a closer, so it will be interesting to see what he can do from Day 1 in the spring camp. An intriguing story that deserves to be followed.