The Rangers’ second round pick in 2021 has been tearing it up in the second half of the season
New Frisco Roughrider Aaron Zavala had a big night last night, registering a pair of doubles and homering. He is hitting .429/.579/.929 in four games since moving to Frisco from high-A Hickory, and for the year is slashing .284/.432/.463.
It has been a productive season the lefty swinging outfielder, who was selected out of the University of Oregon by the Rangers in the second round in the 2021 draft. The book on Zavala coming out of college was that he had a quality hit tool and plate discipline, but that there were questions about how much game power he would have, and that was borne out when he made his professional debut in 2021, slashing .293/.419/.400 in 93 plate appearances between the complex league and low-A Down East.
If you follow the minor league updates you know that that was also the case early in the 2022 season. Zavala got off to a slow, weird start to the year, slashing .177/.378/.274 in 82 plate appearances, walking more times (19) than he struck out (15) in the month of April. He improved to .350/.475/.463 in May, with 16 walks against 18 strikeouts, but was still sporting an ISO of around 100, which isn’t what you want to see from a corner guy.
About six weeks ago, however, the power started showing up, and in spades. Since June 14, Zavala has slashed .316/.446/.588 in 168 plate appearances, with 8 doubles, a triple and 9 home runs. Zavala is continuing to draw walks — he has drawn walks in 16.7% of his plate appearances during that time, which is an elite walk rate — and while his K rate has increased to 23.8% over that stretch, it is still a manageable rate. Prior to June 14 he had walked in 19.9% of his plate appearance this year, and struck out in 18.1%.
At first blush, it would appear that Zavala may be adjusting his approach, being more aggressive at the plate in order to tap into more power, at the cost of a few less walks and a few more Ks. Its a trade-off he would potentially be able to make, given his strong plate discipline, as even with the dip in the walk rate he’s drawing enough free passes to turbocharge his OBP.
We are still dealing with a relatively small sample size, and Zavala is going to have to show that he can continue to produce against AA pitching over the remainder of the season, as well as show that this is a real, sustainable change, rather than a SSS fluctuation. Still, this is very encouraging to see — if Zavala can put to rest concerns about his about to hit for power in game action while also maintaining elite plate discipline, he’s going to be a much better prospect than he was perceived to be coming into 2022.