Kansas City Royals: Tyler Zuber could be future Royals closer
By Shawn Bauman
A name not usually mentioned when discussing top Kansas City Royals prospects, Tyler Zuber could be the closer of the future.
A scan of the 2019 MLB Prospect Watch list for the Kansas City Royals has many players that are already well-known names for Kansas City fans. One pitcher left off the list but who is locking down saves the last two years in the minors at three different levels should be on everyone’s radar. His name is Tyler Zuber.
In 2017, his senior year at Arkansas State was a big turning point in his career as he recorded 80 strikeouts in just 52.1 innings over 25 games. He also recorded 6 saves that year and only allowed 29 hits.
Zuber was then drafted by Kansas City in the sixth round of the MLB amateur draft. Jumping into rookie ball with the Burlington Royals after he was picked, Zuber appeared in 16 contests, saving six games and continuing to confound hitters by sitting down 38 batters in just 25 frames.
Reporting to the Lexington Legends of Single-A to begin 2018, Zuber finished all 23 games he appeared in and recorded a save in nine of those. He improved his SO/9 rate to 14.9 from 13.7 despite playing against a higher level of competition. Striking out 48 batters and only issuing four walks led to a ridiculous 12-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
A promotion to the Wilmington Blue Rocks of Advanced-A ball occurred in 2018 and adapting to the new league caused his numbers to slip as he posted a 4.91 ERA and 1.409 WHIP. He was a big contributor though, recording nine more saves and still struck out batters at a one per inning rate.
Zuber returned to Wilmington to start the 2019 season and came out firing on all cylinders, notching 11 saves in 21 games while posting a microscopic 1.23 ERA and generating 38 whiffs in just over 29 frames of work.
A big moment personally and professionally took place when his performance earned him a promotion to Northwest Arkansas, the Royals Double-A affiliate. There he would be back pitching in the state where he played high school and college baseball. A road trip to Little Rock led to him being able to throw in front around 50 family and friends as he was close to his hometown of White Hall, AR.
All he did against the tougher competition in the Texas League was strikeout 38 in 29.1 innings, nail down 10 more saves and bump up his SO/9 to 11.7 which was higher than it was at High-A ball the first half of the year. For the full year, his WHIP was 0.904, his ERA was 1.79 and he is going to test himself in the Dominican League this fall pitching for Tigres Del Licey.
Ian Kennedy had a great season for the Royals in his first time in a closer’s role but even if he is not traded, 2020 looks to be his last season with the team. Zuber would be a great addition to the major league roster and has shown tremendous ability to shut down the opponents in the last inning.