Baseball’s annual amateur draft, prefaced by frenzied predictions and projections and topped by each major league organization’s attempts to fill their biggest needs, was the highlight of 2018 for the KC Royals. In the midst of a depressing and embarrassing 104-loss season, the Royals took that year’s summer draft by storm, picking several promising young pitchers certain to boost the franchise’s fortunes.
They started with Brady Singer in the first round, then added Jackson Kowar, Daniel Lynch, Kris Bubic, Jonathan Bowlan, Zach Haake, Jon Heasley, and a host of other hurlers before the draft ended.
Singer, Kowar, Lynch, Bubic and Heasley have all pitched in the majors, and Bowlan probably would have pitched in Kansas City last season had Tommy John Surgery not intervened.
Where, though, is Zach Haake?
The short answer is Haake, a big righthander who MLB Pipeline says is the organization’s 29th best prospect, is still in the KC system. Because he ended the 2021 campaign at High-A Quad Cities, expect him to begin 2022 there, or at Double-A Northwest Arkansas.
If he’s still around, that is. He might not be.
Why Zach Haake’s tenure with the KC Royals might be coming to an end.
Kansas City losing Haake before the 2022 season even starts is quite possible, if not probable. The Royals surprisingly omitted him from November’s 40-man roster reset, leaving him unprotected for the Rule 5 draft which, although postponed when the MLB lockout struck the game, is likely to be held when baseball returns to regular order.
Haake should attract plenty of Rule 5 attention. Although his senior season at Kentucky, completed shortly before the 2018 draft, might have suggested otherwise (he was 2-4 with an astronomical 8.47 ERA, an effort he at least partially attributes to a broken hand), Haake’s professional career is so far commendable.
He pitched seven Rookie level games after signing with the Royals and gave up only three runs in 15.1 innings (1.76 ERA), then struck out 94 in 80 innings across 18 2019 games at Low-A Lexington and one appearance in Rookie ball. And although he spent over two months on the Injured List (oblique) and on rehabilitation assignments to KC’s two Arizona Complex League clubs last season, he still went 4-1, 3.74 at High-A Quad Cities. He and River Bandits teammate Dante Biasi teamed up to no-hit Wisconsin in June.
His three-season 8-7 record is good but not remarkable, but he boasts an excellent 2.84 ERA and averages 10 strikeouts every nine innings. His control can be inconsistent, but not dramatically so.
Now, Haake can only work out and wait for the end of the lockout to determine his Kansas City fate. Minor league deals aren’t prohibited by the current transaction freeze, which means the Royals could conceivably deal Haake, but keeping him with hopes to sneak him through the Rule 5 draft is more likely.
Haake is good enough and visible enough, though, that he may not be Royal property when the draft ends. And that might be an unfortunate result for a team whose many other members of a deep 2018 pitching draft class haven’t yet blossomed.
Zach Haake will be available whenever the Rule 5 draft is held. That may not be good for the Royals.