Flying under the radar, Baltimore Orioles’ LHP prospect Zach Muckenhirn is showing that for him a promotion is just a change of uniform.
Muckinhirn, the Orioles’ 11th round draft pick in 2016 out of the University of North Dakota, began the 2018 season with the Delmarva Shorebirds (A-Low). Pitching in multiple roles for the Shorebirds, he entered games in any situation from the sixth through the ninth inning and produced a record of 1-0 with 3 saves; he was credited with two holds as well. Muckenhirn appeared in 12 games and over a span of 17.0 innings pitched to a 2.12 ERA with a 1.00 WHIP, 27 strikeouts and 6 walks. He induced almost 1.5 groundouts for every fly out and limited South Atlantic League batters to a .172 batting average.
Those numbers earned Muckenhirn a promotion to Frederick (A-High) along with RHP Michael Baumann and LHP Travis Seabrooke on May 18th. Since the promotion he has appeared in 3 games for the Keys and despite an 0-1 record he has struck out 11, walked 1 and given up 5 hits in 6.2 innings of work. He is pitching to a 2.70 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP while holding Carolina League batters to a .200 batting average in his small sample size.
On the season, Muckenhirn is throwing 70% of his pitches for strikes and most of those strikes are missing bats; his strikeouts per nine innings sits at 14.5. A deeper look into his numbers shows why he has been so successful. For the year he is allowing an overall slash line of .180/ .245/ .247 with left-handed batters hitting .206/ .243/ .235 and right-handed batters hitting .164/ .246/ .255 off of him. When runners are on base Muckenhirn is allowing a batting average of .125 and he is stranding 71% of those runners. He simply is stopping the opponents.
Muckenhirn is a valuable asset in the bullpen and will fit right in with the Keys. He looks to be one of several shutdown relievers that the Keys have. Projected originally as a back of the rotation starter, Muckenhirn may be evolving into the type of reliever that is all the rage in Major League Baseball, one capable of pitching in multiple situations.
Pitchers who just do their job do not always get the publicity and the lack of buzz surrounding Muckenhirn’s efforts this season seems to prove that. Look to hear more buzz about this 23-year-old southpaw if he continues down the path he has carved for himself so far in 2018; this could very well be his breakout season.
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