Zach McAllister | RHP
McAllister grew up just outside of Peoria, IL, in the small suburb of Chillicothe. His father Steve is the Central Region scouting supervisor for the Diamondbacks. McAllister was a star in both baseball and basketball while at Illinois Valley Central High School, but it was clear from the get-go that his future was on the diamond and not the hardwood.
As a junior, McAllister went 11-1, 0.74 ERA with a 107-11 K/BB ratio as the staff ace, and hit .475 with 12 doubles, 6 homers and 35 RBI as the team’s regular third baseman. He improved to 12-1, 1.04 ERA, 116-13 K/BB as a senior, also hitting .486 with 13 doubles, 6 homers and 38 RBI for the Grey Ghosts. He helped lead IVC to the Illinois state championship, and was named Illinois Player of the Year by the both the Peoria Journal Star and the Gatorade & Scholastic Coach and Athletic Director magazine partnership. He earned first team all-state honors from the Illinois Prep Baseball Report, the Chicago Tribune, and the Illinois High School Baseball Coaches Association
Baseball America rated McAllister as the top prospect in Illinois for the 2006 draft (George Kontos was third), and the general feeling was that he’d forego his commitment to Nebraska if he received third round bonus money. The Yanks selected McAllister in that round (#104 overall) and gave him a $368,000 bonus, roughly $28,000 over slot and enough to buy him out of his college commitment.
McAllister began his pro career with the Rookie level GCL Yanks, where he worked the back end of a tandem-starter system with Dellin Betances. McAllister gave up a hit an inning, and finished with a 28-12 K/BB ratio in 35 IP over 11 games (5-2 record, 2.83 ERA). He made some pretty drastic changes during the winter at the Yankees behest, so he began 2007 in Extended Spring Training.
McAllister joined the Short Season Staten Island Yankees in June, and basically had a tale of two seasons. He went 3-2, 2.58 ERA with a 51-15 K/BB ratio in his first 10 starts, but stumbled to the tune of 1-4, 9.35 ERA, 24-13 K/BB ratio in his final 6 starts. Despite the late slump, he was named to the NY-Penn League All-Star team, twirling a scoreless inning in the AL squad’s victory. McAllister finished the 2007 season in Fall Instructional League.
As I mentioned earlier, McAllister underwent quite a transformation over the winter; the Yanks scrapped the sinker-slider approach he used in high school and had him focus on a four-seam fastball and curveball while working from a higher arm slot. McAllister now sports both a sinking two-seamer and a pretty straight four-seamer that sit in the low 90’s, occasionally touching 94. Having grown up around the game, McAllister had already developed a feel for a good changeup and picked up on some of the nuances of pitching by time he graduated high school, much earlier than most prepsters.
Having added upwards of 6 inches and 60 pounds to his frame in the last 20 months, McAllister now possesses a great pitcher’s frame (6’5″, 230 lbs) with a thick and powerful lower half. He should add some velocity as he finishes maturing. The Yanks had McAllister change his repetoire because they felt his size was more conducive to a power pitcher’s repetoire. He’s a challenge pitcher, and will pump strike after strike when he’s on. There are no makeup or work ethic questions.
McAllister took to the curveball early in 2007, but he completely lost feel for it down the stretch with Staten Island. His ability to spin the pitch, as well as his ability to control it, deteroriated to the point that the Yanks had him resume throwing his slider. He’ll give it another go with the curve in 2008, but he’s got a long way to come with it – it’s almost as if 2007 was a lost year of development for his breaking pitches.
Aside from the curve, McAllister isn’t very good at controlling the running game, which is a common problem amongst dominant high school pitchers. His control is good, but his command needs work. His biggest flaw is his inexperience, but that’ll take care of itself in due time.
Having held his own in the short season levels of baseball, McAllister will start 2008 with Low-A Charleston. Since it will be his first year in full season ball, the Yanks will take it easy with his innings, and it’s unlikely he’ll be moved up to High-A Tampa during the season, unless of course he absolutely dominates. Pencil him in for about 110-120 innings during the regular season.
I think that Zach McAllister is a better prospect than people realize. This is a big, strong kid with good stuff, good control, good intangibles and a history of good health. He’s a big and intimidating presence on the mound and he pounds the zone, which is a mix all teams look for. You’ll see people call him a sleeper around the interweb, but don’t look at him that way: McAllister is a legit prospect with a considerable ceiling. He’d be getting alot more recognition if the Yanks didn’t have Hughes-Joba-IPK, or if he was with another organization. He’d be a top 3 or 4 prospect in the White Sox or the Astros’ system. I expect good things.