UR Baseball starting pitcher John Ghyzel, who completed his junior season for the Yellowjackets last spring, was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 18th round of the 2017 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft on June 14. He is currently pitching for the Billings Mustangs, a Pioneer League affiliate of Cincinnati.
Ghyzel was the 527th player taken overall, but just the fourth from Division III. He was the second player in UR program history to be drafted, after pitcher Michael Weiermiller, who was taken in the 14th round by the Minnesota Twins in 1981 and spent two years with the organization in the minor leagues.
Coach Joe Reina has overseen Ghyzel’s development since the right-hander arrived at UR from Centreville, VA in 2014.
“John came in as a freshman with a very live arm. He learned how to pitch the more time he got on the mound,” Reina said.
Ghyzel’s freshman year was certainly a learning experience. He appeared in 10 games, starting six of them, compiled a 5.45 ERA while allowing a .299 batting average, and both struck out and walked 7.1 opponents per nine innings. It wasn’t a perfect season, nor did it need to be, but it concluded with a stellar performance against No. 9 Emory at the UAA tournament, as he struck out six over six innings and allowed just one earned run in the eventual 3–2 extra-inning win.
“His freshman summer, he worked hard to get stronger and pitched very well,” Reina said. “The fall of 2015, he came back throwing 92-94 miles per hour on his fastball, and his curveball was sharp — this was when he opened some eyes.”
That season, Ghyzel went 7–1 with a 2.97 ERA, completing four of his ten starts. After walking and striking out the same amount of batters the previous season, he struck out 7.5 and walked just 2.5 hitters per nine innings, and allowed a considerably lower .254 batting average.
Last year, Ghyzel had a 3–2 record, but his ERA was higher, at 4.25, and he more than doubled his walk rate, handing out 6.2 free bases per nine innings.
“This spring, he started slow out of the gate,” Reina said. “His control was off and the walks were high. A few minor adjustments, and John seemed to get better each start. A few scouts came and watched and liked what they saw.”
Scouts had good reason to see potential in Ghyzel, given that he increased his strikeouts per nine innings to 10.6 and held his opponents to a .232 batting average, the lowest of his career. And most of all, they probably noted his elite velocity.
The increased strikeouts and early control problems likely stemmed from this increased zip on his pitches.
“Over Memorial Day weekend, he attended a pro workout in New Jersey with several MLB teams,” Reina said. “There he was 96-99 mph with his fastball and he really opened up some eyes.”
His professional career started June 28, just two weeks after being drafted, as he pitched for the Arizona League Reds. In nine appearances, he compiled three saves and one win, posting a dominant 1.74 ERA while striking out an impressive 13.1 batters per nine innings.
Starting on August 11, he was moved to Billings. He has faced considerable challenges there, with a 12.46 ERA in six appearances. It’s worth noting, though, that his Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which calculates expected ERA when only taking walks, strikeouts, and homeruns into account, and ignoring all balls in play, is a much more respectable 4.78, so he may be due for some positive regression. According to xFIP, which normalizes home run to fly ball ratio, his expected ERA is slightly higher at 5.35, though FIP and xFIP are based on major league trends.
Ghyzel has had a mixed bag within minor league play so far, but he is only two months into his career, and he is doing something only one Rochester player before him, and few Division III players in general, are given the opportunity to do.