Spin rate, ‘pitchability’ make Zack Littell an intriguing Twins prospect

Published 7:34 am Thursday, March 8, 2018

By Mike Berardino

Pioneer Press, St. Paul

FORT MYERS, Fla. —Zack Littell heard nothing but positives upon getting optioned out of his first Twins spring training on Wednesday morning.

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“I told him he had an impressive camp,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. “Complimented the work ethic and mound presence. It was nice to put eyes on him and build him up because I felt good about what he did here.”

Littell, acquired along with lefty Dietrich Enns in the July 31 trade that sent veteran pitcher Jaime Garcia to the New York Yankees, is best known for his 19-1 record at three levels last summer. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, the right-hander from North Carolina should open the year at Triple-A Rochester.

“He’s got a little different style,” Molitor said. “His fastball plays and it’s not very hard. He’s got deception, the ability to hide the ball and pitch up in the zone. He hit 90 (mph) a few times. I know he can cut it, I know he can spin it, I know he can slow it down. He seems to have a good feel of how he can get people out.”

The scouting term for that is “pitchability,” a label that has followed Littell since he signed for $100,000 out of the 11th round with the Seattle Mariners as a high school draftee in 2013. Already traded twice by age 22, the easygoing Littell smiles when asked what “pitchability” means to him.

“It’s really having to be a pitcher, you know?” he said. “A lot of the guys who throw really hard are incredible pitchers but they can get away with a little bit more just based on ‘velo’ and pure raw stuff. I just don’t have it.”

Littell might touch 92 mph with his fastball, but it’s really more about carving up the zone into four quadrants, changing hitters’ eye levels and keeping them off balance with a full pitch mix that includes a solid changeup and a 72-mph curveball.

“I think I learned pretty quickly I had to find a way to get it done,” he said. “I think ‘pitchability’ is a term to describe just finding a way to get it done. It’s not necessarily a compliment, but it’s not an insult by any means. It’s just what you are.”

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