Red Sox pitching prospect Ryan Zeferjahn made the first relief appearance of his professional career for High-A Greenville on Wednesday night. Making his season debut for the Drive, the right-hander allowed just one hit and struck out two over three scoreless — albeit low-leverage — innings of work.
Zeferjahn needed just 35 pitches (24 strikes) to retire nine of the 10 batters he faced while earning the win in Greenville’s 17-3 trouncing of the Asheville Tourists (Astros affiliate) at McCormick Field.
The Red Sox originally selected Zeferjahn, now 24 years old, in the third round (107th overall pick) of the 2019 amateur draft out of the University of Kansas. At that time, Zeferjahn was regarded by Baseball America as the 57th-ranked draft-eligible prospect. The Topeka native signed with the club for $500,000.
Upon signing his first pro contract, Zeferjahn was assigned to short-season Lowell out of the gate and made 12 starts for the Spinners to close out the year. Coming into the 2020 season, the former Jayhawk was ranked by Baseball America as the No. 19 prospect in the Sox’ farm system.
Unfortunately, the 2020 minor-league season was wiped out on account of the COVID-19 pandemic, so the only real in-person guidance Zeferjahn received from the Red Sox that year came later on at fall instructs.
Falling out of Baseball America’s Boston prospect rankings the following spring, Zeferjahn broke camp with Low-A Salem. He posted a dismal 6.91 ERA — but much more encouraging 3.86 FIP — to go along with 41 strikeouts to 15 walks over 12 starts (41 2/3 innings pitched) for Salem before being sent down to the Florida Complex League in mid-July.
According to SoxProspects.com’s director of scouting Ian Cundall, Zeferjahn was sent to Fort Myers in order to work on his mechanics. He made four starts for the FCL Red Sox beginning on August 31 and pitched to the tune of a 3.21 ERA and 4.29 FIP with 18 strikeouts to three walks across 14 innings of work.
Listed at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Zeferjahn operates with a four-pitch mix that consists of a 93-95 mph fastball with sink, an 84-87 mph slider, an 83-86 mph changeup, and a 76-80 mph changeup, per his SoxProspects.com scouting report.
Before the 2022 season began last week, Zeferjahn had only been used as a starter throughout his pro career as he made 28 starts between three different levels from 2019-2021. The last time the righty was used out of the bullpen came in the summer of 2017, when he made 13 appearances for the Falmouth Commodores of the Cape Cod Baseball League.
When used in shorter stints, though, it appears as if Zeferjahn can further tap into his fastball velocity. While information from Wednesday’s outing is not currently available, Zeferjahn did reach 98 mph with his heater when making starts of one to three innings with Lowell in 2019.
Zeferjahn, who turned 24 in February, comes into the 2022 campaign not ranked by any major publication as one of the top pitching prospects in the Red Sox organization. He can, however, become eligible for the Rule 5 Draft for the first time in his career this winter.
(GIF of Ryan Zeferjahn via the Greenville Drive)