Saturday, December 8, 2012

#23 Pirates Prospect - Zack Von Rosenberg

Buried Treasure Top 30 Prospects 
#23 - Zack Von Rosenberg

Measurables: 6'5, 205
Bats: R, Throws: R
Position: P
Acquired: 6th round (175th overall), 2009
Bonus: $1,200,000
DOB: 09/24/1990
Buried Treasure 2012 Top 20: #19


The second Zack - at least counting backwards on this list - was almost rated as highly by most publications as the Pirates first round pick Tony Sanchez, who went fourth overall. In fact, on Baseball America's draft list, Von Rosenberg was ranked as the forty-first best prospect in the available, nine spots behind the Pirates first round pick. Von Rosenberg's calling card as a draft prospect was his projectable frame as his present velocity in high school was only in the high 80's.  In addition, Von Rosenberg got high marks for an advanced feel for pitching, refined secondaries, and clean mechanics. 

Von Rosenberg had a strong commitment to LSU, but the Pirates were able to convince the prep pitcher to bypass college to become a professional straight out of high school.  Part of the persuasion tactics included a 1.2 million dollars signing bonus.  That bonus created significant expectations for Von Rosenbeg, who was only able to pitch two perfect innings in 2009, striking out two out of six batters he faced.


Von Rosenberg opened the 2010 season with the State College spikes.  He showed some positive signs - he avoided injury, pitched to a 3.20 ERA, and showed good control, only walking 2 batters per 9 innings.  However, Von Rosenberg only managed to strike out just under 6 batters per 9 innings.  Overall, that's a good K/BB ratio, especially considering the emphasis the Pirates put on fastball command in the lower levels of their system.  One unfortunate note was that reports indicated that Von Rosenberg saw no improvements in fastball velocity that scouts had hoped for.  Still, Von Rosenberg was young and had survived a short-season placement in his first pro season with good walk rates.  The future looked encouraging.


With a successful short-season campaign on his resume, Von Rosenberg opened the 2011 season in full-season ball pitching in the West Virginia power rotation.  If Von Rosenberg could add some velocity, maintain his command, and refine his secondaries further, a breakout would hopefully follow.  Instead, Von Rosenberg tread water in the South Atlantic League.  On the positive side, the young pitchers walk rate stayed very low, even further from 2.0 BB/9 to 1.65 BB/9.  Von Rosenberg also saw a noticeable strikeout spike, mowing down batters at a 8.16 K/9 clip.  However, Von Rosenberg was very hittable, giving up 143 hits in 125.2 innings, including 19 home runs.  That resulted in an ugly 5.73 ERA, although a 4.14 FIP painted a slightly different picture as Von Rosenberg was the victim of horrible BABIP and LOB% luck.  Another positive note was Von Rosenberg pitched much better during the second half of the season and scouting reports indicated that he was finally sitting in the low 90's with his fastball.  The hoped-for breakout did not happen, but a strong second half provided a belief that Von Rosenberg was on the verge of a good season in 2012.  Von Rosenberg's prospect status did not shine as brightly as it had pre-draft, but he was still young enough after the 2012 season - Von Rosenberg finished the year before his 21st birthday - and his peripherals were solid enough to maintain legitimate prospect status.


The 2012 season began with Von Rosenberg back at West Virginia, which was arguably disappointing considering the small improvements the young pitcher had made at the end of the previous season.  Part of the reasoning may be the fact that reports indicated Von Rosenberg's fastball velocity had deteriorated to the mid-80's.  Von Rosenberg's results in the 2012 season backed up such reports.  The Power pitcher saw his walk rate nearly double from 2011 and his strikeout rate dropped by nearly two punch outs per nine innings, from 8.16 K/9 to 6.19 K/9.  In addition, while his numbers technically improved from 2011 to 2012, Von Rosenberg again posted a poor hit rate and a poor home run rate.   As start-by-start continued to go by, it looked like the former top draft pick's prospect status was all but gone.  However, in his last start of the season, Von Rosenberg attempted to hang on by a thread, pitching a complete game while only giving up 3 hits and 1 earned run.  By default, Von Rosenberg will probably be promoted to Bradenton in 2013.  He will start and pitch the entire season at 22 years old, a reasonably appropriate age for that level.  Still, for Von Rosenberg to have any chance of becoming the prospect hoped for when the Pirates gave him a seven-figure signing bonus in 2009, he will have to gain fastball velocity and pitch well next season.


  1. You have ZVR over both Escobar and H. Ramirez. Is this simply because Escobar and Rameriez only recently made their staeside debuts? I would argue at this point both have much higher ceilings than ZVR.

    1. Exactly. Both guys are just significantly further away. For all his struggles, Von Rosenberg's floor is still higher than the floors of Escobar and Ramirez.

      Also, we're talking a 3 and 4 spot difference in the 20+ range on the list. All three guys are C prospects at this point and it'd be a coinflip comparing any of them.

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