On Thursday afternoon the Chicago Cubs optioned struggling outfielder Kyle Schwarber to Triple-A Iowa. Replacing him on the roster is outfielder Mark Zagunis; here’s a quick take on the newest Cub.
Mark Zagunis was a three-year starter for Virginia Tech, hitting .338/.430/.495 from 2012 through 2014. He was a catcher/outfielder in college but his hitting was ahead of his defense and scouts weren’t sure where he’d fit defensively in pro ball.
Drafted in the third round in 2014, he began as a catcher in the ‘14 Northwest League but shifted to the outfield full-time in 2015. He’s been a steady performer with a high on-base percentage moving up, hitting .271/.406/.412 in A-ball in 2015 and .288/.384/.469 in Double-A and Triple-A last year.
Zagunis was rated as seventh on the Chicago Cubs Top 20 prospects for 2017 list, with a Grade B- and the following commentary:
7) Mark Zagunis, OF, Grade B-: Age 23, third round pick from Virginia Tech in 2014; hit .288/.384/.469 with 10 homers, 52 walks, 78 strikeouts in 358 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; excellent strike zone judgment and power improved in ’16; average defensive tools; the bat is the key attraction here; may wind up as trade bait. ETA: 2017.
He hit .249/.399/.474 for Triple-A Iowa before his promotion today, already setting a career-high with 11 homers. He posted 48 walks against 60 strikeouts in 213 at-bats.
Zagunis is listed at 6-0, 205, a right-handed hitter and thrower born February 5, 1993. His best physical tool is probably his throwing arm, as befitting a former catcher, but his outfield speed and range are only adequate and he’s limited to a corner spot.
That’s OK if he hits enough and Zagunis has always stood out for exceptional plate discipline and high on-base percentages. He is generally an all-field hitter although he’s shown a greater tendency to pull for additional power over the last year. His strikeout rate has risen a tad, but so has his isolated power and his overall production has remained solid (wRC+123 last year, 132 this year).
Zagunis has a window to impress while Schwarber regains his footing in Iowa. Here’s some of the power the Cubs hope he can tap.