The Minnesota Twins pitching prospect Zack Littell continues to prove his ability to excel at the true craft of being a pitcher.
The Minnesota Twins had a weird late July leading up to the trade deadline in 2017. The Twins went from feeling fully entrenched as contenders for a Wild Card spot or maybe even an outside chance at the division. Which led them to a trade for Jaime Garcia from the Atlanta Braves. The Twins then quickly flipped to feeling like they have been pushed out of contention and traded Garcia to the New York Yankees for pitchers Dietrich Enns and Zack Littell.
Fast forward to today and now Littell has done a lot of winning and has been mentioned alongside some of the Twins top pitching prospects. Littell was recently promoted to Triple-A Rochester where he has an opportunity to only further bolster his resume. He did just that in his first start as a member of the Rochester Red Wings and he went 6.0 innings, allowed two hits, no runs, and struck out six batters.
Littell is constructed much differently than the pitching prospect Twins fans have been able to acquaint themselves with most recently, Fernando Romero. While Romero is good at many facets of his craft, if all else fails he can always simply pull back and try to throw a near 100 mph heater past his opponent. That isn’t a luxury that Littell has.
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Instead, the 6’4″ and 220-pound right-hander throws a fastball that has been clocked at anywhere between 91-94 mph but settles around 92 most often. Littell has also paired that with a changeup and curveball and has simply learned how to be a pitcher. Even though Littell’s stuff isn’t impressive in the same way as Romero’s he still was able to impress the big league manager.
"“He’s got a 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.”"
Get people out is exactly what Littell has done most of his minor league career. Even though he wasn’t off to the same good start in Chattanooga as Littell is accustomed to as he was 0-3. In the 2016 and 2017 seasons Littell rattled of a stretch where he went 28-2, the Twins front office still has confidence enough in Littell to earn that Triple-AAA promotion.
Littell may not be the Twins staff ace someday, but in a FanGraphs piece shortly after he was acquired by the team some interesting potential comparisons were suggested. Based on using the Mahalanobis analysis Littell draws comparisons to pitchers like Javier Vazquez, Colby Lewis, and none other than Brad Radke.
The makeup of Radke and Littell are very similar, with Littell having an edge when it comes to his ability to get strikeouts. If Littell is able to continue to develop through Triple-A there is a chance that he could become very Radke like in a future Twins rotation. Littell will have to continue to prove that he can out-pitch everyone. Even if his velocity doesn’t naturally draw the eyes of the league. That seems to be exactly what Littell is poised to do, out-pitch everyone.