After splitting time at multiple positions during his career at Oregon, Aaron Zavala has played right field full-time this season. That’s neither here nor there because his ability to put the bat on the ball is what has moved him up draft boards. Let’s see what the Pac-12 Player of the Year brings to the table.
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Aaron Zavala, OF/3B, Oregon
Weight: 195 lbs.
2019: 43 G – .273/.356/.338, 2 SB
2020: 15 G – .418/.493/.491, 1 HR, 2 SB
2021: 55 G – .392/.525/.628, 9 HR, 11 SB
Players who walk more than they strike out are few and far between especially in today’s game. Aaron Zavala is one of those players with that potential at the pro level. The bat is what will move him up the ladder, but he does more than that and there are really no glaring weaknesses in his game. The floor is solid with the Orgeon outfielder and teams will be looking at a kid who could make short work of his minor-league time.
The bat-to-ball ability is incredible. Zavala has a knack for getting the head of the bat out and making solid contact to all fields. He has a quiet approach, very little movement, and waits back as long as possible before throwing the barrel at the ball wherever it is pitched. His pitch recognition is also excellent. In his Ducks career, Zavala walked more than he struck out (75/68). We all know contact hitters are not a huge thing in the majors nowadays, but the Oregon native has the tools to hit anything the big guns can throw at him.
Zavala is a solid player overall and doesn’t do anything poorly. He doesn’t have blazing speed, but he can take an extra base when it is needed. He should definitely stick in right or left field and could grow into being an above-average defender. Zavala also has some experience at third base and would certainly be able to handle first which gives him some versatility. Adding to the talent, the kid has the intangibles as well with intelligence and a solid work ethic.
While Zavala has a little pop when he gets a chance to pull one, don’t expect much more than 10-15 HRs a year at the major-league level. He is a line-drive hitter with gap-to-gap power. While that should translate into plenty of doubles, putting them over the fence is not likely given his approach and build. Some scouts believe he is more of a left fielder because of an average arm which also won’t play well at third base. Although teams will be drafting his bat mostly, if there is a perceived lack of versatility and concern about future power, Zavala may drop down in the draft a bit.
Pro Comparison: Brandon Nimmo
While Nimmo is a little taller at 6-foot-3, his overall approach is similar to Zavala’s. In 2019, Nimmo led all National League hitters with over 200 plate appearances in walk percentage at 18.1. I could see the former Duck outfielder doing the same when he gets to the big stage. While the Mets outfielder was selected in the first round out of High School in 2011 with considerable perceived upside, Zavala is an experienced college player and although his ceiling may not be incredible, his floor is certainly higher than most.
Draft Projection: Round 3, Pick 87, Houston Astros
In recent years, the Astros have been a team that walks and doesn’t strike out a ton. They stick with that philosophy here by drafting Zavala who has one of the best eyes in college. He can slot in the outfield as they don’t have much in the pipeline. Also, Michael Brantley and Yuli Gurriel aren’t getting any younger. Zavala fits with their system and would immediately be the most major-league-ready outfielder on the farm.
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Main Image Credit: https://pac-12.com/article/2021/05/21/zavala-semifinalist-dick-howser-trophy