One of the bigger disappointments in the minors this year has been Zack Von Rosenberg, and his struggles in his first year in full season ball. Von Rosenberg is way too young to assume his poor numbers represent anything more than growing pains. However, the 6′ 5″, 205 pound right hander has definitely experienced his share of struggles this year, with a 6.65 ERA in 89.1 innings, fueled mostly by 17 home runs.
I’ve seen Von Rosenberg twice this year. Once was in Spring Training for a few innings. He was leaving the ball up in the zone a bit, and getting hit pretty hard at times, although it was against an upper level Yankees farm team. The second time was at the start of the month in West Virginia. I stuck around for an extra day to see Von Rosenberg, and didn’t get much of a chance to watch him, as he was bounced after getting two outs, giving up seven runs, five earned, in the outing. After the game I spoke with Von Rosenberg, and West Virginia manager Gary Robinson, who both noted that the problems weren’t physical, but issues with Von Rosenberg’s approach:
“Instead of placing the pitch, let’s drive the pitch,” Robinson said. ”Let’s throw the pitch with some heart in it, with some guts in it. And he shows signs. He just hasn’t been able to put it together yet. It may take another 4-5 starts for him. His issues are not physical. His delivery is pretty clean, everything is good. It’s more of a change in mentality. Lots of times, that’s tougher than any delivery issue you try to fix. I’m confident that he will be able to get that done.”
“It’s delivery, it’s mentality, it’s a lot of things that are hand in hand that I’m trying to…I need to apply in the game, but I’m just not doing it right now,” Von Rosenberg said.
It’s been five starts since that outing. In his last two starts, Von Rosenberg has combined for 11 shutout innings, allowing five hits, no walks, and striking out nine. It’s far too early to suggest that those two outings represent a change. In two mid-June outings, Von Rosenberg combined to allow two earned runs in 10.2 innings, with a 10:1 K/BB ratio. He followed that up by allowing 12 earned runs in 5.2 innings in his next two starts. He’s still a young pitcher, and at this point is more about projectability than his current makeup and results. That said, putting up good results for the remainder of the year would be an encouraging sign, and might help boost Von Rosenberg’s confidence, so that he can continue to drive his pitches to their destination, rather than placing them there.