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As a diehard Arizona Diamondbacks fan, I try to make it a point every night to peruse their minor league box scores to get a glimpse at the future of the franchise.
One farmhand who has been jumping off the page all season is former Arizona Wildcats pitcher Kevin Ginkel, who currently plays for the Reno Aces, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate.
Combined with his numbers at Double-A Jackson, where Ginkel began the 2019 season, the 25-year-old right-hander has recorded a 1.80 ERA in 35 innings this year, holding opposing hitters to a .157 average.
You think that’s impressive? How’s this: Ginkel has fanned 63 batters, giving him a ridiculous strikeout rate of 16.2 Ks per nine innings. That is roughly the same strikeout rate as Milwaukee Brewers reliever Josh Hader, who leads the MLB in Ks/9, is posting.
Even in the hitter’s paradise that is the Pacific Coast League, Ginkel is dominating. The Lakeside, Calif. native has logged 16.1 innings for the Aces, allowing just three earned runs with a whopping 36 strikeouts.
At one point, Ginkel had a four-game stretch in which he struck out the side in every outing. He recently became Reno’s closer and has recorded a save in four straight appearances.
“What helps me and what makes me successful is working the top and bottom of the strike zone,” he told our sister site AZ SnakePit. “I try to work north to south and that plays with my fastball and slider combination. Using that to my advantage and changing eye levels is critical in my game, so being able to execute your pitches is the whole entire thing.
“I know that Colorado, the ball flies and even at Chase Field the ball can fly some times, and other big league parks you can see on TV. It all comes down to pitch execution and watching the Zack Greinkes and Clayton Kershaws of the world, watching their start and watching them pitch efficiently down in the zone. When they need to elevate, they will and watching those guys work is a thing of beauty. I really appreciate watching those guys and seeing what makes them work. Pitch execution is critical in this league.”
A 22nd-round pick, Ginkel pitched for the Wildcats for one season—2016, the year UA reached the College World Series championship series—after transferring in from Southwestern College. He split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation, compiling a 2.80 ERA in 64.1 innings.
While those are good numbers, his strikeout rate at Arizona (6.3 Ks per nine) was nothing like it is in the minor leagues.
After struggling in A-ball in 2017, Ginkel’s second year in the minors, he made some mechanical changes and has been virtually unhittable ever since.
“I saw a pitching coach independently, away from the Diamondbacks, a couple seasons ago. I struggled in 2017 with injury and overall command, my velocity was down, and I needed to see someone,” he said. “I got in touch with a player and he told me about this coach and I went into his facility and we talked about what needs to work to get my velocity back up to where it once was and he got me on a lifting program, throwing program and I started to see some results right away.
“I knew I was always able to throw hard, in college I could throw mid 90s and so I was just trying to figure out how to get that back. Seeing him has helped evolve my game. I’ve always wanted to be aggressive, I just never knew the right way to do it. I found mechanically I’ve made some tweaks, incorporating my lower half more, which has helped my arm feel better day in and day out and overall command. Developing that and finding what works for me has made a huge adjustment in my game and I didn’t expect to be this successful quickly. Overall, I’m just happy where I’m at in my career and looking to keep progressing and moving forward and I’m excited for what lies ahead.”
It seems the only thing that can prevent Ginkel from making his MLB debut is the injury bug. He missed all of June with an arm injury, and said recently that he is still trying to get back to 100 percent.
But the Diamondbacks just dealt Zack Greinke, are quickly falling out of playoff contention, and their bullpen has been a disaster all season, so it seems like it’s only a matter of time before Ginkel gets a shot to shine on the big stage.