TODAY: Zeuch has been released, the Cardinals announced.
MAY 21: The Cardinals announced a handful of roster moves prior to tonight’s game. Left-hander Matthew Liberatore, whose imminent promotion was reported yesterday, has now officially had his contract selected. To make room on the active roster, righty Jake Walsh has been optioned to Triple-A Memphis. Fellow righty T.J. Zeuch has been designated for assignment to open up a spot for Liberatore on the 40-man roster.
The Blue Jays selected Zeuch 21st overall in the 2016 draft, with Zeuch then landing at #8 among Toronto prospects the next year, according to Baseball America. However, his prospect stock faded as he climbed the ranks of the minors, dropping to #12 in the system in 2018 and #24 in 2019. BA’s reports on Zeuch noted that his primary pitch, a sinker, was good at generating ground balls, but that Zeuch lacked a strikeout pitch, as his curveball and slider were mediocre.
Those reports have largely proved astute as Zeuch has faced more talented hitters. Over 2019-2021 with the Blue Jays, he threw 49 innings at the big league level, generating worm burners at a decent 50.9% clip but a paltry 14.1% strikeout rate. The blue birds designated him for assignment in July of last year and traded him to the red birds for cash considerations.
After the trade last year, Zeuch threw 38 1/3 innings for Memphis with a 4.93 ERA, 65.7% grounder rate and 21.6% strikeout rate. Unfortunately, things have soured so far this year, as Zeuch has an unsightly 11.64 ERA through 19 1/3 frames. He hasn’t even been getting ground balls at his customary pace, slipping to 36.8%.
The Cardinals will now have a week to trade him or expose him to waivers. It’s possible that a team in need of pitching depth could write off this year’s struggles as a small sample blip and take a shot on him, given his former first-round pedigree. He’s still just 26 years old and is in his final option year, meaning he could be stashed in Triple-A for emergencies.