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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Seattle Mariners' Zack Littell Emerging as a Top Pitching Prospect

The Major League Baseball draft recently concluded and another batch of young players joined the ranks of professionals. Every step along the way from when they first started playing as children has essentially weeded out those with less talent. Those who can prove themselves and hang in there have the potential of becoming a big leaguer and realizing dreams that are years in the making. Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Zack Littell still has his dream alive and well. Entering his fourth season in the organization, he is right on pace for becoming one of the lucky ones.

The right-handed Littell was a baseball phenom from an early age, starring at Eastern Alamance High School in Haw River, North Carolina. His senior year, he was 10-2 with 130 strikeouts and was selected in the 11th round of the 2013 draft by the Mariners. Although he was set to attend Appalachian state, the lure of starting his baseball career was too strong and he signed on the dotted line.

Just 17 during his first professional season, he experienced some natural bumps that first year, going 0-6 with a 5.94 ERA in 10 Arizona Rookie League games. However, he struck out 28 batters in 33.1 innings and got invaluable experience about what he would need to do going forward.

In a classic example of doing exactly what you’d want out of a young baseball player, Littell has gotten better with each passing season. This year, pitching for Single-A Clinton, he is 5-5 with a 2.93 ERA in 14 starts and has struck out 80 batters in 86 innings. Still just 20, he is emerging at the right time and is poised to get more recognition as one of best young players in Seattle’s system.

This past offseason, Littell graciously answered some questions about his career. Keep reading to find out more, as now’s the time to find out who this exciting pitching prospect is.

Zack Littell Interview

Who was your favorite team and player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite team was the Atlanta Braves and my favorite player was Chipper Jones. The Braves were my favorite because they were the closest MLB team to my hometown, so they felt like a hometown team. I went to their games often when I was younger. Chipper Jones was my favorite player because he was always fun to watch play. 

What do you remember most about attending your first major league game in person?: My first MLB game I ever attended went into extra innings and I didn't leave until 2 a.m.

How did you first find out that the Mariners were interested in you, and what was your draft experience like?: I first knew the Mariners were interested in me when I was invited to their pre-draft workout. My draft experience was very much a whirlwind, I graduated from high school the day before I was drafted and had to keep my phone on during graduation in case I got a call. It was definitely something I'll never forget.

What was something you did to celebrate after being drafted?: The day of the draft my mom had all of my close friends and family over to watch the draft, and after I was drafted we hung out and celebrated. I also went to a whitewater rafting center so that was pretty cool!

How difficult/strange was it to be just 17 for the entirety of your first pro season (in 2013)?: I was kind of used to being the youngest because I've always been the youngest on teams. It was difficult because a lot of the other guys knew each other through their college experiences and I didn't have that.

What pitches do you throw and which do you believe needs the most work?: I throw a four-seam, two-seam, curveball and changeup. My changeup probably needs work; I need to take some velocity off.

You struggled in your first pro season but have had significantly better results in each successive season. How have you managed to do this?: I think just throwing and understanding my body more and learning more about the type of pitcher I am.

What do you like to do for fun in your free time?: In my free time I like to fish, play golf, and hang out with friends. 

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