Many people often wonder why baseball players head to Japan, Korea, or the Independent League’s if they do not get an offer with a MLB organization, and the main reasons are that these guys love the game and want to play, and you never know what might happen. Los Angeles Dodgers left-handed pitcher Rich Hill is a perfect example, and Baltimore Orioles’ minor league right-handed pitcher Michael Zouzalik is attempting to do the same.
Zouzalik, 26, is a great example of a guy who simply won’t give up on his dream. After going undrafted out of Texas-Pan American, Zouzalik was signed by the Texas Rangers organization as a minor league free agent and spent his first year of professional baseball in the organization. It’s not as though he didn’t perform well either, posting a 4-0 record with a 2.41 ERA over 33.2 total innings and 23 appearances in 2013, but the Rangers released him prior to the 2014 season.
Zouzalik spent the next two years in the American Association where he pitched one year with Wichita (2014) and one year with St. Paul (2015). Over 86 combined appearances in those two seasons, Zouzalik went 8-1 with a 2.56 ERA and a 1.032 WHIP.
That two-year stretch appeared to catch the Orioles’ attention, as they signed him to a minor league deal in October of 2015.
Back in a MLB organization, Zouzalik continued to do what he has seemed to do his entire professional career, pitch well.
Zouzalik pitched in three levels in the O’s organization in 2016 (High-A, AA, AAA) and went a combined 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA and a 1.222 WHIP over 44 appearances and 73.2 innings pitched.
Of those 44 appearances, 29 of them came with the High-A Frederick Keys, 12 with AA Bowie and three with AAA Norfolk. Believe it or not, his highest ERA came with Frederick (3.94), but that can be misleading a little bit when you take into account he had one performance where he yielded six earned runs, and didn’t record an out. What does that mean? Well, take away that outing and Zouzalik allowed 12 earned runs over his 28 other appearances with the Keys over 41 innings.
Zouzalik is chasing his dream, and doing whatever it takes, and after a very quality 2016 campaign, I look for him to begin the year in Bowie’s bullpen, where, most O’s fans know, you are only one call away from heading to Baltimore.