One of the best rookie pitchers in baseball this year has been right-hander Zach McAllister of the Cleveland Indians. He wasn't a hot prospect pre-season, but he's held his own in the major league rotation, going 4-4 in 12 starts with a 3.60 ERA and a 65/20 K/BB in 70 innings, allowing 72 hits. Let's take a look at his background.
McAllister was drafted by the New York Yankees in the third round in 2006, from high school in Chillicothe, Illinois. He posted a 5.17 ERA in the New York-Penn League in 2007, though his 75/28 K/BB ratio in 71 innings was solid. He emerged with a very effective 2008 campaign in A-ball, going 14-9, 2.09 ERA with a 115/21 K/BB in 151 innings with just 133 hits allowed.
McAllister followed up with a 2.23 ERA and a 96/33 K/BB in 121 innings for Double-A Trenton in 2009, but missed a month of the season with a vague "tired arm" injury. Although he made 27 starts in Triple-A in 2010, he lost zip off his fastball, posted a 5.29 ERA, and gave up 185 hits in 150 innings. He was traded that summer to the Indians for Austin Kearns.
Rebounding in 2011, he went 12-3, 3.32 with a 128/31 K/BB in 155 innings for Triple-A Columbus. He was 5-2, 2.98 with a 52/19 K/BB in 63 innings this year before moving up to the majors.
McAllister is a 6-6, 240 pound right-hander, born December 8th, 1987. When everything is right, he throws 88-94 MPH with his fastball, averaging around 92. He has a history of velocity fluctuations linked to mechanical inconsistency, but he locates the fastball well. He has a complete arsenal at his disposal with a curve, slider, and changeup. While none of his pitches are consistently outstanding, McAllister is adept at keeping hitters off-stride and throwing strikes.
He is physically mature and doesn't have the physical projection to throw harder than he currently does, but what he has is enough, as long as his location is sharp. If he avoids injury, McAllister can be a fine inning-eating number three starter. I had him as a Grade C pre-season, too concerned about the velocity drop in 2010, but he's exceeded my expectations.