Virginia Tech Pitcher Zach Brzykcy Signs with the Washington Nationals

Stephen Newman

Last month, Ian Seymour and Carson Taylor were selected in the new-look, shortened MLB Draft. The new format clearly didn’t hurt them, but many other prospects with legitimate big-league potential were adversely affected.

Among that group was former Virginia Tech right-handed pitcher Zach Brzykcy. But fear not; the relief ace, who MLB Pipeline rated as the No. 180 prospect (higher than Taylor), has latched on with the defending champion Washington Nationals.

According to MLB.com, “[Brzykcy] opened a lot of eyes in the Cape Cod League last summer, throwing strikes and leading the league in saves en route to being named the league’s reliever of the year. He did not bring that feel for pitching with him at the start of the spring, but his pure stuff is still very enticing.

The 6-foot-2 right-hander has the kind of fastball-slider combination you love to see coming out of the bullpen late in games. He touches triple digits fairly regularly, throwing his fastball anywhere in the 94-101 mph range... His hard slider is a legitimate strikeout pitch and a nasty plus breaking ball.”

As the experts mentioned, Brzykcy’s collegiate production did leave a bit to be desired. His three-year ERA was 5.40 and although he struck out 54 batters in only 35 innings – suggesting that he is overpowering – he also surrendered 41 walks, which is an eyesore.

There’s no question what the appeal was for the Nationals. General Manager Mike Rizzo famously places a premium on hard-throwing amateurs, forgiving spotty statistical production, and the bullpen has been his team’s glaring weakness for the better part of a decade.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean Brzykcy factors into the organization’s immediate future. In fact, Washington’s 60-man player pool for this season is almost entirely full, and it already includes 36 – yes, 36 – pitchers. There also won’t be a minor league season, so Brzykcy’s first year will consist of lots of sitting on the couch and working out independently – although he is eligible to be activated to the player pool at any point.

Still, the fact that the Nationals signed Brzykcy is significant. For as strong as the organization is structurally, the pipeline of player personnel in the minor leagues is rather thin – as it has been for the past few years. The moment prospect rankings update, Brzykcy could easily be in the team’s top 15.

Being a reliever should help Brzykcy get a promotion sooner. First of all, the Nationals boast one of the best (and most expensive) starting rotations in the league, so the bullpen is the right path for nearly any of their pitching prospects. Additionally, even putting aside Washington’s unique situation on the mound, relievers across the league tend to climb up the minor league system quicker than starters, mainly because they don’t need to build up stamina as inning-eaters.

Assuming minor league affiliates aren’t slashed - which unfortunately is on the table – Brzykcy will likely get his first taste of professional action either in the Gulf Coast League or at Short-Season Auburn, although strong performance could quickly get him promoted to Low-A Hagerstown since he played in college and his “stuff” can be so imposing.

Seymour had previously been the most recent player out of Virginia Tech to sign with a professional franchise this summer. However, Taylor also recently reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Additionally, JD Mundy – a former Hokie who transferred to Radford – also signed as an undrafted free agent.

Stay tuned for more Hokie signings! The top remaining candidate appears to be right-handed pitcher Anthony Simonelli.

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