Some people are just meant to be relievers and Jorge Zavala might be one of those guys. Over the last two years, Zavala has an ERA of about 0.66. I didn’t even do the math for that, I just looked at the ERAs of the last two seasons. That’s how damn impressive he has been since the beginning of last year.
Zavala was born a couple of months before the 1994 Baseball Strike in Honduras. How unusual is it to see baseball players out of Honduros? According to Baseball-Reference, the only Honduran major league baseball player is Gerald Young, who played between 1987-94. Young was actually raised in California and was a draftee in 1982 so there is that added caveat. Soccer is a much bigger sport in Honduros than baseball, but Zavala bucked the trend and started to throw a baseball with velocity.
Signed before the 2012 season, Zavala was sent to the Dominican Summer League for his first professional action. He started three of the 16 games he pitched in and limited batters to no homers and less than a hit an inning. He also didn’t stand out much. A 3.07 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in rookie ball won’t attract a lot of attention without big K numbers and again, here Zavala didn’t amaze anyone especially compared to Michael Flores, a lefty who would go on to struggle over the next two years. Still, Flores looked intriguing in 2012
Then 19, Zavala moved up to the Gulf Coast League and started another five games to go with eleven total outings. Not much changed as far as Zavala’s prospect status. He wasn’t bad and you could argue that he was good (his ERA was a bit higher than it probably should have been), but there was just nothing to write home about and say “this guy has something.”
Atlanta must have concurred because they kept Zavala at Champion Field in the Gulf Coast League to open last year. They moved him out to the bullpen full-time and Zavala excelled. In 18 games out of the GCL pen, he nailed down seven saves while walking the same exact amount. In 24 innings, he struck out 27. Oh, and he allowed just one run for an ERA of 0.38. He basically had an ERA of Anthony Varvaro. He was moved up the chain to Danville and in 2.1 ING, he matched the one run he surrendered in GCL, but still, he finished the year with a 0.68 ERA in 26.1 innings. Not the greatest sample size, I grant you, but that’s greatly impressive. For his efforts, Zavala was named Pitcher of the Year by the Braves organization for the GCL Braves.
Zavala joined Rome to begin the year and has been there outside of a one-game stint in Carolina that coincided with the bus accident that ravaged the Mudcats roster. In ten games in Rome, he has pitched 12.1 ING with 17 K’s with an microscopic ERA of 0.73. I’d match his ERA with a Braves player, but according to Baseball-Reference, no Brave has played under that number outside of probably spring training.
So, has Zavala established himself as a real prospect? Probably not yet, but he’s getting there. You can’t put numbers up like Zavala has done to this point and not start to get noticed even though I haven’t read any glowing scouting reports on him. This video is from several years ago and it’s the closest I’ve come in my brief research to getting a handle on his pitching style. In a system full of big pitching prospects both ahead and behind Zavala, it’s easy for good performances by the lesser-known pitchers in the system to get lost in the shuffle – especially when they are coming from a reliever – but Zavala is a guy you ought to keep a look out for. Over the last two years, he has been special. That in itself doesn’t mean he’ll be successful, but there clearly is something here. Let’s hope it works out.