Projecting KC Royals prospects: No. 18, Zach Haake

KC Royals (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images)
KC Royals (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) /

Baseball’s 2018 amateur draft became a pitching bonanza for the KC Royals when they chose nine heralded hurlers. Although five of them get the most attention, another is quietly establishing himself as an excellent prospect.

Welcome back to Kings of Kauffman’s “Projecting the Prospects” series for 2020. We’ll be reviewing each of the organizations Top 30 prospects and projecting their best, worst and most likely scenarios for the upcoming season. Up for today is pitcher Zach Haake.

Years from now, after he’s thrown his last pitch and is long retired from baseball, a Sunday afternoon in June, 2019, spent in Lexington, Kentucky, will likely remain lodged in Zach Haake’s memory. Haake, one of the promising pitchers the KC Royals selected in the 2018 amateur draft, started and lost for the club’s Lexington affiliate that day. If the game remains forever registered in Haake’s memory, it probably won’t be the loss itself that resonates, but instead the bizarre way he lost.

Haake didn’t make it out of the first inning against Greenville. In fact, he managed only one out and walked six in the brief calamity that quickly produced three runs, all Greenville needed for its 4-1 victory.

Misfortune again struck Haake several starts later when Hickory hammered him for six runs, six hits and three walks in 2.2 innings.

Fortunately for Haake and the Royals, however, those dismal outings are by far the worst of his two-year minor league career, aberrations and outliers that don’t reflect his otherwise excellent body of work. Although he’s 4-6, he has a 2.55 ERA, a good 1.196 WHIP and averages over 10 strikeouts per nine innings. (He struck out 12 in a six-inning outing last season). And he tends to keep the ball in the park, surrendering only three home runs in over 95 innings.

Haake’s is a name sometimes forgotten in the attention lavished on five of the stellar pitchers the KC Royals drafted in 2018–Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic and Jonathan Bowlan–but he’s proving the club was right to pick him in the sixth round. It’s also a choice borne out by’s ranking of Haake as 18th in its Royals’ Top 30 Prospect list for 2020.

Haake started his pro career soon after signing with the Royals and immediately impressed. Although he didn’t get a decision in seven 2018 Rookie League games, he posted a combined 1.76 ERA for two teams and struck out 14 in 15.1 innings. After one Rookie circuit start in ’19, he started 19 games at Class A Lexington; he was 4-6 with a 2.85 ERA and fanned 90 in 75.2 innings.

As he told Kings of Kauffman after last season ended, Haake relies primarily on a fastball-changeup combination, can throw the change effectively in any count, and is working to improve his slider. How will he perform in 2020?

Worst case scenario.  Haake’s 4-6 minor league record belies how good he’s been, which makes projecting negatives difficult. He’ll probably return to Lexington to begin the season and make his way to AA later; at the worst, he could regress and stay in A-ball.

Best case scenario.  If his fastball-change combo continues to work, his change remains good and his slider gets better, Haake could easily post a winning record and move up as high as AA Northwest Arkansas. Omaha would be a stretch, but not impossible if the KC Royals start him at High-A or AA.

Most likely outcome.  Look for Haake to continue as a starter (he’s started all but one of his 26 minor league games) and pitch more than the 4.2 innings per game he averaged last season. He should win more than 10 games and move up to Northwest Arkansas before the campaign ends.

Next. Prospect No. 10: Carlos Hernandez. dark

Zach Haake may not be the best-known of the KC Royals’ flock of hot pitching prospects, but he appears to have a bright future. Expect him to advance in the organization in 2020.