Here a Rookie, There a Rookie, Everywhere a Rookie Hurler… Welcome, Marc Rzepczynski

When southpaw hurler Marc Rzepczynski (pronounced Zep-Chin-Ski) took to the mound last night for the Toronto Blue Jays, he was the sixth rookie pitcher to start a game for Toronto this year. The 23-year-old pitcher was also the fourth left-handed rookie pitcher to start for the Jays this season.

Of all the rookie pitchers to throw for the Jays this season, Rzepczynski (and maybe Robert Ray) was the least heard about name (and hardest to spell). Not even manager Cito Gaston – or last night’s starting catcher Rod Barajas – had ever seen the rookie pitch.

Rzepczynski was a fifth round draft pick in 2007 out of the University of California-Riverside. He was also a college senior who had not even been drafted during his junior year. Less than three years later, Rzepczynski was a Major League Baseball player. The only players that have made it to the Majors who were taken between the second and fifth round of the 2007 draft are Rzepczynski, Jordan Zimmermann (2nd round, Washington), Jess Todd (2nd round, St. Louis) and Brad Mills (4th round, Toronto). Obviously, the Jays organization did a very good job in scouting and drafting Rzepczynski (not to mention Mills, who also debuted this year).

Rzepczynski’s biggest plus as a professional pitcher has been his groundball rate, which is an impressive 64.4% throughout his minor league career. He also has a career strikeout rate of 9.5 K/9. His biggest weakness – and something that was evident in his debut against Tampa Bay – is his lack on control. Rzepczynski has a career walk rate of 3.33 BB/9 and it was at 4.23 BB/9 in 14 double-A starts in 2009. Prior to his call-up, the left-hander also started two triple-A games where he allowed seven hits and four walks (and 16 Ks) in 11.1 innings.

During his debut last night, Rzepczynski walked four batters in six innings, but he allowed just two hits and struck out seven batters. He also induced seven groundball outs. Tampa Bay hitters flew into just four outs. His sinker sat between 86-88 mph last night with excellent downward movement, whereas his scouting reports have had him between 87-92 mph. Rzepczynski got the majority of his strikeouts because he mixed his pitches well and most of his Ks came on sliders and changeups.

There is no doubt that with just two starts above double-A – and just 16 starts above A-ball – Rzepczynski has been rushed out of necessity. If last night is any indication, though, he has a bright future, especially if he can tighten up his control. Right now, I would liken his potential to that of a left-handed version of Boston’s Justin Masterson.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects, depth charts and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

8 Responses to “Here a Rookie, There a Rookie, Everywhere a Rookie Hurler… Welcome, Marc Rzepczynski”

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  1. alskor says:

    Have to disagreee. Masterson throws harder and has significantly better stuff than Rzepczynski. Masterson was a top 40 prospect on his own merits as a starting pitcher. Rzepczynski is having a nice year, but he also seems to work mid 80’s with rather unimpressive secondary offerings.

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  2. d says:

    HA – the link for Brad Mills goes to the current BoSox bench coach player days. Right country, wrong century! :)

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  3. Marc Hulet says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    Left-handers on average throw softer than right-handers… and so a “left-handed version” of Masterson would still be an apt comparison. Zep makes up for the lesser velo with more deception in his delivery.

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    • theraysparty says:

      he did look exactly like a left Materson. A sinker and a slurve made the Rays hitters look silly because they had never seen him before. Only gave up a couple of hits though I don’t think he will hold that up for long.

      Whips his long arms in that sinkerball fashion. Could stay up longer in this stint longer than what most people would think he would.

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  4. Slugger O'Toole says:

    Thank you for the phonetic aid, it was appreciated. I think Toranto is doing something that FanGraphs writers have advocated recently and forskaing weak veteran signings in favor of giving their minor league pitchers a chance. I like it. A fresh young arm, inexperience though it may be it probably better than a journeyman vet that never had much success anyway. Now if the Blue Jays can convince Selig to switch them over to the NL East they might be on the way to perennial contender status

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    • jw says:

      This has been the case in Toronto since the beginning of ’07, when they released veteran has-beens Tomo Ohka and Victor Zambrano in favour of young up-and-comers Shaun Marcum, Dustin McGowan, and Jesse Litsch. Their pitching staff went from disastrous to fantastic.

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      • charliedvrs says:

        Yea, disastrous to fantastic to over 100 combined D/L days for those three guys. Rushing these guys up could have something to do with how often Toronto’s young arms could be ending up on the D/L, could also just be plain bad luck. Lets just hope the Polish Rifle doesn’t suffer the same fate.

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  5. homeboy69 says:

    It’s a good thing they didn’t pick rookie Tyler Ybarra to pitch! They would of just been way disappointed! Watch and see, Ybarra will NOT go far! Very suprised he made it this far since he can’t seem to stay away from those drugs. I heard his father was the same and even did time in the old slammer! Like father, like son they say!

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