Top Prospect #35: Zac Cline

While Draft Day may have been a slight disappointment for pitcher Zac Cline, his young professional career certainly hasn't. Cline moved quickly from draft to Batavia to Lakewood as the Phillies saw Cline's ability to handle the next step. It hasn't all been easy and Cline admits to how tough it can be, but all looks well for the Phillies' 15th round pick.

Zac Cline experienced pretty much success at West Virginia, winning 20 of the 28 games he started in two seasons and throwing ten complete games in each season. Over his three seasons, Cline put together a school record 22 complete games. In his last two seasons at West Virginia, Cline went 20-6, 3.14 and was scouted by a few teams. In fact, Cline was under the impression that he would go in the top ten rounds of the 2004 Draft, but that didn't happen. "I was kind of disappointed, but the draft is a crazy process and you can't know for sure what's going to happen," remembers Cline. While Cline had to wait until the 15th round to finally hear his name, it has all turned out well.

After a short time at Batavia, the Phillies had seen enough (2-0, 2.53 in eight games) and moved their young pitcher along to Lakewood. "It was a surprise," recalls Cline. "Warren Brusstar (pitching coach) and Luis Melendez (manager) called me over and told me I was moving up. It was kind of a shock." Leaving Batavia meant leaving behind Brusstar, who Cline says was a great help. "He's great to work with. I left there with a lot of respect for him," said Cline. The respect is mutual. "Zac is a smart kid and he knows how to pitch. He works hard and he'll do well," said Brusstar.

2004 Batavia 2 0 2.53 0 8 0 0 21.1 21 8 6 4 21 0
2004 Lakewood 5 1 2.98 0 8 8 0 42.1 38 15 14 8 34 3
Career 7 1 2.82 0 16 8 0 63.2 59 23 20 12 55 3

Acquired: Drafted out of West Virginia University in the 15th round of the 2004 Draft.

Repertoire: "My fastball and change-up are my best pitches," reports Cline. Some scouts have commented that his change-up will be the pitch that will make people remember Zac Cline. "He always had good command of his fastball and then uses that change-up to beat people," remembered WV pitching coach Greg Van Zant. Brusstar and the Phillies have worked with Cline on developing his curveball and it appears he'll develop a better than average curve.

Pitching: The Phillies liked Cline's ability to throw strikes and felt all along that he was a guy who knew how to pitch. The Phillies haven't been too surprised by his rapid move, because they didn't figure on needing to spend too much time with him at Batavia because he was one of those pitchers who simply knew how to get things done and had enough talent to move quickly.

Projection: He only threw 42 innings at Lakewood, but with the miles that all of Cline's complete games in college put on his arm and the fact that he is well developed in his pitching skills, it's likely that Cline will be at Clearwater in 2005. If the Phillies want to be cautious, they may give him a couple starts at Lakewood, but that doesn't seem necessary.

ETA: It's not out of the question that Cline will get at least a quick look at Reading some time this season. There is an outside chance that by September of 2006, he'll get a look in the majors. That's an overly optimistic schedule, but one that could come together. It's more likely that Cline will get a taste of the majors at some point in the 2007 season and be ready for full-time duty by 2008, especially if his curveball develops.

Comparison: Some believe that Cline's ceiling might be that of an Al Leiter type pitcher. He projects at least as a middle of the rotation starter and again, depending on how good his curveball becomes, he could be more - much more.

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