Deep Dive on Mets prospect Calvin Ziegler, a raw but high-upside starting pitcher

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Calvin Ziegler treated image, red jersey with two versions of him from screengrab
Calvin Ziegler treated image, red jersey with two versions of him from screengrab

Calvin Ziegler took a long path when it comes to both time and distance to find his way to the Mets organization.

He is from Heidelberg, Ontario -- a small town in Canada with a population of fewer than 500 people.

Ziegler was eligible for the five-round 2020 MLB Draft, but went undrafted because he still needed to grow as a prospect, and due to restrictions that prevented the Canadian junior national team from making its typical trip to Florida -- where Canadian high school prospects are most often scouted in person.

While baseball and scouting opened back up in 2021 in the United States, Canada still had restrictions. And Ziegler and his family made the decision for his future that he would move to the states to further pursue baseball.

He found residency in New York and enrolled at The Next Level Academy (TNXL), which is a charter school in Florida. After the move, he committed to Auburn University to give himself a backup option if the draft did not go his way.

Why the Mets drafted Ziegler

There was no saying how the draft would go as Ziegler was being seen for the first time with regularity by scouts in the Florida area. He wasn’t on the U.S. junior national team and he wasn’t at a powerhouse high school program.

Public rankings like MLB Pipeline had him as the No. 123 prospect in the draft. I think the young hurler from a small town was motivated by all of that.

The Mets were one of the teams that saw Ziegler quite a few times last spring. Scouting Director Marc Tramuta personally saw him throwing 95-96 mph in the sixth inning of an outing. Often with prep arms, you will see velocity decline throughout games as they throw more pitches, but that didn't happen when Tramuta saw Ziegler.

Despite what some outlets may have thought about Ziegler, the Mets had conviction that Ziegler was worth the 46th overall pick. Part of the equation was the fact they were going to be able to sign Ziegler for $910,000, which was well under-slot for the selection.

The Mets made some financial decisions in the draft that were impacted by their pending agreement with first-rounder Kumar Rocker for $6 million that ended up not happening.

Scouting report

So, what is it that attracted the Mets to Ziegler?

He is a 6-foot, 205 pound athlete on the mound who one scout told me reminds him of how former Mets prospect Simeon Woods-Richardson looked when he was coming out of high school.

Ziegler's best pitch is his fastball that will sit 93-95 mph and touch 97 with spin rate and spin efficiency. He has a low 80s slider that flashes plus at times, but he needs more consistency with it.

As is the case with most high school arms, you typically don’t need more than those two pitches to dominate at that level, so naturally his changeup needs a lot of development, though Ziegler shows the feel for it.

His command can come and go at times, but he threw more strikes this past spring than in the past.

What's next?

The Mets have focused on expanding their analytics team to potentially as many as 30 people for the 2022 season, including an analyst being assigned to each minor league affiliate.

With Ziegler’s stuff, spin rate, and efficiency and movement profile, I think he will benefit a lot from the analytical presence that will be in place throughout the minor league system this coming season.

While there are a wide range of outcomes with the young, raw right-hander, the Mets believe they drafted a future big league starter in Ziegler.

I ranked him No. 9 in my latest Mets Top 20 prospects list, and I expect to see him start the 2022 minor league season with Low-A St. Lucie, where he will have the opportunity to establish himself and show the Mets why they were right to invest a Top 50 draft pick in him.