Yankees prospect Zack Zehner was originally selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the seventh round of the 2014 draft, but chose not to sign and returned to college at California Polytechnic. The Bombers selected him a year later in the 18th round of the 2015 draft and signed him for slot money.
Zehner made his pro-debut as a 22-year old for Staten Island in the New York Penn League in 2015. He slashed .232/.309/.351 with five homers and 31 RBI in 63 games that summer.
As an advanced college bat, the Yankees skipped Zehner over Low-A and placed him at High-A Tampa to open the 2016 season. Zehner showed advanced pitch recognition and a good understanding of the strike zone; he walked 63 times to go along with 107 hits in 109 games at the level. The 23-year old spent all season with Tampa an impressive .278/.384/.375 with three homers and 35 RBI while playing both corner outfield spots on an everyday basis.
The Yankees had told Zehner that in a system packed to the gills with outfield talent, he would have to hit for more power as a corner outfielder if he had hopes of one day making it to the big leagues. Zehner made adjustments in his approach in 2017 that may have caused his average to dip a bit, but his power output more than doubles his previous career output in his first season at Double-A Trenton. The 24-year old Zehner proved to be a model of consistency playing in 128 games on a roster that saw lots of turnover and injury throughout the season. Zehner slashed .260/.355/.408 with 11 homers, 23 doubles, 68 RBI and a career-high 64 walks; he was named an Eastern League all-star and took home the games MVP award in July.
“The kid can just flat out hit,” said one scout from an AL West club told Pinstriped Prospects last spring. “His approach and path to the ball is about as good as anybody else on this Trenton team. The organization seems to have a lot of these outfield guys who all pretty much have the same tools and ceiling as a fourth outfielder kind of player.”