Drayer: How Mariners 2nd-round pick Zach DeLoach unlocked his ‘pure left-handed swing’
The summer before Zach DeLoach became the Mariners’ second pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, he was eager to go to work on changes at the plate he was in the process of making after hitting .200 his sophomore season at Texas A&M. After just two games, however, a crucial Cape Cod League season for DeLoach came to a halt, delayed for five days by rain.
Bad luck? Hardly.
“That was probably the make or break of my career, to be completely honest,” DeLoach said with a laugh from his home in Texas this week. “It was a lot of really good time spent in that cage. There was just one single cage there, it’s a small cage but we made it work. But you know magic happens sometimes.”
That magic came in the form of work. Work that in baseball can only come when you don’t have to hold anything back for games. Under the watch of Falmouth Commodores hitting coach Brett Becker, DeLoach was able to dedicate hours to perfecting the toe tap he had gone to from a leg kick. As the rain fell, his timing became more consistent and the slight changes he made to his swing were committed to muscle memory. With this came confidence.
“It gave me the ability to go into a game and know that I want to have that aggressive mindset and not have the fear of striking out or grounding out,” he said. “Just to go out there and have fun, picking out the right pitch and everything will take care of itself. It’s crazy to think about, but that’s all it was.”
When the rain stopped, DeLoach went out and took the Cape Cod League batting title, hitting .353 in 37 games. Quite a turnaround from the numbers he put up during the school year, and as it turns out he was just getting going. In his coronavirus-shortened, 18-game junior season, DeLoach hit .421 with six home runs, 14 walks and just three strikeouts.
“He has a pure left-handed swing and he is just starting to tap into that power,” said Mariners amateur scouting director Scott Hunter. “He really went through a difficult time the first couple of years but the swing change he made really carried over into this year. He’s always been a control the zone guy, we just feel very fortunate to get in on that front side of the trend where we think Zach is going.”
That trend started with a struggle, and in coming out of that struggle much was learned.
“It didn’t just happen overnight but this was something I truly took pride in,” said DeLoach. “I took it upon myself to make it mine. I took it upon myself to be very individualized and to be consistent. I am very process-oriented. I have a routine now. I let the results speak for themselves.”
It will be some time before the recent draftees play any sort of regular schedule of games. DeLoach will stay ready for that day when he can return to field and take his work into actual games. In the last year he has picked up valuable experience and when struggles come his way again, as they always do in baseball, he now has a place to go.
“I take myself back to the Falmouth Field and take myself back to that cage,” he said, “and for whatever reason that just calms me down and takes me back into my routine and my confidence.”