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.

We hoped you liked reading Here a Rookie, There a Rookie, Everywhere a Rookie Hurler… Welcome, Marc Rzepczynski by Marc Hulet!

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

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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.