Zach Penrod was nearing the top of his rope.
The 26-year-old left-hander had spent his complete profession toiling within the baseball wilderness. The 6-foot-2 Idaho native went undrafted after taking part in NAIA and Division 2 faculty ball and noticed his early alternatives derailed by Tommy John surgical procedure and the pandemic. He then spent two years taking part in for impartial Pioneer League golf equipment based mostly out of Idaho and Montana, and coming into 2023 he determined that if nothing modified this season could be his final.
“I’d already kind of come to grips with that, that it was going to be over, so it left me with the option of enjoying what was left of the year and seeing where that took me,” Penrod stated. “And it brought me here.”
With the end line nearly in sight, Penrod’s profession took on new life because the Red Sox got here calling and signed the lefty to a minor league deal in mid-August. Since then Penrod has emerged as one of many group’s most intriguing prospects, main the High-A Greenville Drive to the South Atlantic League championship earlier than rising as one of many high arms within the Arizona Fall League.
This previous week Penrod was named to the AFL’s Fall Stars Game after posting the very best ERA of any beginning pitcher heading into the weekend (1.29), and on Sunday evening he threw a scoreless inning within the nationally televised showcase, permitting one hit with one strikeout.
“It’s been a whirlwind, it feels like things keep getting thrown at me and I’m just along for the ride,” Penrod stated. “It’s crazy to think I was in Montana and all of a sudden I find myself in Arizona pitching in the Fall League, I’ve realized how quickly things can speed up on me and meeting those challenges is enjoyable.”
Penrod stated the Red Sox signing him got here fully out of the blue, saying they initially referred to as to ask for some info on a Saturday and supplied him a job two days later. Behind the scenes, nonetheless, the Red Sox had been maintaining a tally of him for some time.
After two unproductive seasons of indy ball, Penrod took massive strides in 2023. He posted a 2.98 ERA for the Missoula PaddleHeadverts, and Red Sox director of participant improvement Brian Abraham stated the group’s professional scouting staff — led by division leaders Harrison Slutsky and Mark Heil — recognized him as an arm to observe. Eventually, when a sequence of accidents and promotions opened up a chance in Greenville’s rotation, the membership pulled the set off.
“Whenever you have someone with a pitch mix, the power, the fastball velo with some interesting secondaries, you try to find a spot for them,” Abraham stated.
Penrod boasts a fastball that tops out at 97 mph together with an influence slider that may draw swings-and-misses in opposition to lefties and a changeup that may hit 91 and get righties out as effectively. He additionally has a singular arm slot, and whereas he’s usually struggled along with his command, the Red Sox believed these points had been fixable.
“We felt we could make some immediate adjustments and hopefully see some results and we saw that very quickly in Greenville,” Abraham stated.
Upon his arrival in Greenville Penrod stated he felt fully misplaced and that the services at Fluor Field had been “immaculate,” however you wouldn’t have recognized it by the best way he dealt with enterprise on the mound. In 4 begins down the stretch Penrod went 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA, and as soon as the postseason started Penrod emerged because the staff’s ace, incomes the win in two of the membership’s 4 straight playoff victories, together with 5 innings out of the bullpen within the championship-clinching win over the Hudson Valley Renegades.
Penrod then realized he’d be heading to the Arizona Fall League, which introduced each a chance to check himself in opposition to a better stage of competitors in addition to a curveball — he and his fiancé had deliberate their marriage ceremony for after the Pioneer League season, however now their massive day was set to fall in the course of the time he’d be away.
“She wasn’t upset but it was definitely a bit of a longer pause than I was expecting after I told her about the Fall League,” Penrod stated, including that he was in a position to take 4 days off for the marriage and plans to take his spouse on a pleasant honeymoon as soon as issues cool down.
Where it as soon as appeared like his baseball journey was nearly over, now it seems like something is feasible for Penrod. Abraham stated the Red Sox see him as a starter who has the instruments to succeed on the higher ranges, and it wouldn’t be a shock if Penrod earned a promotion to Double-A to begin subsequent season.
Still, as superb because the previous few months have been, Penrod acknowledges that he nonetheless has a protracted solution to go if he needs to take advantage of this newfound alternative.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement,” Penrod stated. “So I think this offseason just tackling my weaknesses and trying to round those off so I can make a run at it next year.”
Mayer, others on observe for spring coaching
While lots of Boston’s high prospects took massive steps ahead in 2023, a number of notable names noticed their progress disrupted by harm. Three specifically, Marcelo Mayer (shoulder), Miguel Bleis (shoulder) and 2022 first-round choose Mikey Romero (again), had their seasons considerably impacted if not fully derailed, however Abraham stated all three are on the street to restoration and must be full-go in time for spring coaching.
“All progressing well,” Abraham stated. “You never know when it comes to injuries but I think they’re progressing as we hope and we’re expecting them to be fully healthy and ready to go.”
Since the season ended the Red Sox have hosted round 50 prospects for offseason exercises in Fort Myers, amongst them most of this previous summer season’s draft class. Though first-round choose Kyle Teel has garnered a lot of the eye, Abraham stated the membership’s different high picks, together with Nazzan Zanetello, Antonio Anderson and Kristian Campbell, have made a powerful impression as effectively.
“A lot of excitement, a lot of athleticism, just really young and exciting ballplayers that we’re excited to get to see more in game action,” Abraham stated.