The Royals announced the promotion of southpaw Angel Zerpa to start this evening’s game against the Indians. It’ll be his major league debut. He was added to the 40-man roster last winter to keep him from selection in the Rule 5 draft, so no move was needed in that regard. Southpaw Daniel Lynch was placed on the 10-day injured list due to a right hand contusion to clear active roster space.
Kansas City has brought up a slew of pitching prospects over the past couple seasons. Zerpa isn’t seen as the same caliber of talent as players like Lynch, Brady Singer, and Jackson Kowar, but he’s still viewed as one of the top handful of pitching prospects in the system. Entering the year, Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs slotted Zerpa as the #10 farmhand in the Kansas City organization, while Baseball America placed him 20th on their midseason update.
Both outlets note that Zerpa doesn’t throw especially hard — his sinker typically ranges from 90-94 MPH — but he draws praise for his advanced strike-throwing acumen and secondary offerings, especially his mid-80s changeup. Longenhagen suggests Zerpa could settle into the back of the rotation in the future, while BA projects him as a likely reliever.
Zerpa will break into the big leagues as a starter, although he could be an option to work in either capacity for the Royals fairly early next season. He’s only made one career Triple-A appearance, so he seems likely to begin the year in the minors. But the Kansas City front office clearly believes Zerpa’s not far away from being a regular big league contributor.
While Zerpa had never pitched above Rookie ball before this season, the Royals added him to the 40-man last November because they believed it plausible another club could fast-track him to the big leagues as a Rule 5 pick to gain his long-term control rights. He’ll indeed make it to the majors just a few days after his 22nd birthday, the culmination of a four-level journey this season.
Zerpa has a 4.58 ERA in 88 1/3 minor league innings this year. He began the campaign in High-A and posted a sterling 2.59 mark. An inflated .370 batting average on balls in play after a promotion to Double-A led to a 5.96 ERA at that level, but he posted high-end strikeout and walk rates (28.9% and 7.4%, respectively) across all three levels. That showing earns Zerpa a late-season audition in the big leagues.