Orioles Prospect Zac Lowther Is Adding Polish to His Vexing Funk

Zac Lowther was described as having “vexing funk” when he was profiled here in August 2018. That hasn’t changed. The 23-year-old southpaw — now No. 12 on our Orioles Top Prospects list — still disrupts timing with his delivery. Moreover, he continues to flummox hitters. In 148 innings last year at Double-A Bowie, Lowther logged a 2.55 ERA, fanned 154, and allowed just eight gophers.

Prior to last season, Eric Longenhagen described how Lowther “hides his arm behind his body… and has nearly seven feet of down-mound extension.” Last week, the 6-foot-2, 235 pound lefty shared that his recent developmental strides have been more mental than physical in nature.

“A lot of it is working on consistency and how I approach everything,” Lowther told me. “I’m not throwing 96 [mph] — I’m that funky guy who kind of goes against the scouting reports — so I have to place to ball and rely on all three pitches. I need to stay within myself; I need to be in the present, but also know how that pitch takes me to the next pitch.”

Lowther’s repertoire consists of a fastball, a curveball, and a changeup. The first of the three is his best weapon, despite its pedestrian (88-93) velocity. And more than deception is at play. The erstwhile Xavier Musketeer gets good carry, and as Longenhagen pointed out, sometimes sinking and tailing action.

“It’s a four-seamer, but with my spin axis it can move almost like a two-seam,” explained Lowther, whom Baltimore drafted 74th overall in 2017. “But when I’m getting on top of it, it will ride through the zone. That’s what I’m looking for. The tail I’ll get at times isn’t the objective.”

Lowther concurred with Longehagen’s opinion that his curveball, despite having good depth and bite, “doesn’t pair real well with (his) fastball.” Acknowledging that his hook has been “too poppy,” Lowther has made better tunneling a developmental objective. Tightening it up, while at the same time retaining shape, is the goal. Technology is part of that process.

“I’m more of a visual learner, so seeing numbers and video allows me to make an adjustment quicker than if I was just guessing,” explained Lowther. “We have the [Edgertronic] camera sending up video with overlays of my curveball, and from that I make sure that my hand is in the right placement. I can do drills every day to feel the spin, and not waste reps when I’m throwing the ball. The has kind of jumpstarted those quality reps.”

The same goes for his changeup, a modified two-seam circle that is “about 6-7 mph” slower than his heater. Video allows Lowther to see, frame-by-frame, his arm action as he prepares to release the ball. If his wrist is loose, the result is typically a changeup that tumbles and fades. Conversely, if his wrist is stiff, that’s when Lowther needs to remember to back up third base.

Technology has also helped show him that his secondary offerings are up to snuff. While Lowther has always trusted his sneaky, go-to fastball, he’s often lacked full confidence in his curveball and his change. Armed with quantifiable evidence, it’s now easier to tell himself, “Okay, I can do this.” Effective sequencing is part of that equation, but Lowther has likewise learned that “the pitches themselves are pretty good pitches when I’m getting them where I want them.”

A 2.26 ERA and 223 hits allowed in 326 minor-league innings suggests that Lowther has been putting his pitches where he wants them on a consistent basis. Of course, those numbers haven’t come from above the Double-A level. How the quality of his pitch mix — and the vexing funk that accompanies it — translates to Triple-A, and ultimately to the majors, is a question yet to be answered. The under-the-radar lefty isn’t stressing that too much right now. He’s just trying to get better, one subtle tweak at a time.

“I’m not going to try to reinvent myself unless I reach a point where I need to,” Lowther told me. “I’ve been having success with what I do, so I just want to keep tightening up what I do.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

Vids or it didn’t funk.