Zach Reks: From Done to Dodger

SURPRISE, ARIZONA - MARCH 07: Zach Reks #84 of the Los Angeles Dodgers bats against the Texas Rangers during the fifth inning of the MLB spring training baseball game at Surprise Stadium on March 07, 2021 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)

 Zach Reks got called up to LA for the first time this year in June and it was an experience he’ll never forget. After finishing a standout High School career at Carl Sandburg High School in the suburbs of Chicago, Reks took his talents to the Air Force Academy and set his sites on Cloud nine.

But, as “they” say, sometimes the best-laid plans in life often go awry. Or, in Reks’ case, detour just a little.

Reks was an All-Stater in both his Junior and Senior year in High School and hit .609 in conference play in his prep career. He was recruited to play baseball and join the Air force Naval Academy in 2013 and that’s what he did. That’s when his journey started to detour.

Detours, Decisions, Done

In 2013, in his Freshman year at Air Force, Reks hit .210 with 0 home runs, and, to top it off, he couldn’t pass the qualifying exam to become a pilot. So, knowing that, and knowing that he would have to make a 5-year commitment after graduation to be a commissioned officer in the Air Force, Reks had come to his first fork in the road. He was left to decide whether he should stay at Air Force or transfer. Reks decided to transfer.

In the fall of 2014, Reks walked on at Kentucky and his audition for the Wildcats continued down the same path as his Freshman year of college at Air Force. Translation: He didn’t make the team.

So, he quit baseball and began pursuing his degree in mechanical engineering.

Done for Good?

While riding through the UK campus with a former teammate, pitcher Bo Wilson, Reks was noticed by the UK hitting coach for how he jumped off his friend’s motorcycle. His friend was Bo Wilson, a pitcher on the Kentucky team that had been at Air Force with Reks.

The hitting coach that noticed Reks happened to be Rick Eckstein who is currently the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Eckstein knew that Reks was hanging around with the baseball players so he asked Reks if he had ever played. If that last name sounds familiar, Rick Eckstein is the brother of David Eckstein who played several years as a shortstop in the MLB.

Anyways, Reks responded to Eckstein with, “Well yeah” and so he was invited to try out for the Kentucky baseball team again, but, this time, he made it.

Things Start to Click

Reks got a start in the 2nd game of that year, got 3 hits in that game, and became the everyday starter for the SEC Wildcats. In 2017 he was drafted in the 10th round but signed for just $5000. All Reks wanted was a chance and he got it, and since then he has shined.

Hitting Evolution

As with most young players, Reks has gone through some minor changes since becoming a professional.

Here is a video of his swing at Kentucky

Notice that he is upright in College and his swing path is flat. That allowed him to hit for a better average but reduced his power. Reks only hit 3 home runs his senior year with the Wildcats.

Reks with the Dodgers

Notice he’s lower, crouched more and his swing path has a touch more of an upward path to it. The crouch allows him to sink into his legs and hips more and generate power with them. The slight upward path he swings with now allows him to get more lift on the ball, which has created more power.

Reks has an OPS of 1.004 in AAA action in 2021, has hit 14 home runs and it hasn’t totally come at the expense of average. He is still hitting .309 and has an on-base percentage of .405.

Bottom line is, the dude can play!

Here is my favorite moment with Reks in OKC. This home run was hit on a Friday night and was hit on the night before his 2nd call up to LA. Reks hit it completely out of the Bricktown Ballpark.

Improving The Swing

There are 2 main reasons why I think Zach Reks has staying power at the MLB level. One is his eye at the plate. Like Will Smith, Reks knows the zone very well and has always had high on-base percentages because of it. Now that he’s created lift in his swing his OPS is high as well. He’s been able to add power without sacrificing too much average, and that’s a lot to do with the fact that he swings at the right pitches. The 2nd main reason I think Reks has staying power at the MLB level is his ability to hit the ball to all fields without losing power.

Here’s an example of an opposite-field home run for Reks. 

And, finally, here’s a home run to the middle part of the field. 

Hopefully, now you have an idea of what Zach Reks is capable of, and, maybe, you too are convinced that he is a Major League caliber player the same as I am.

MLB Is Hard

I am fully aware that he went 0 for 10 in his 2 call-ups with LA, and I understand that players have to take advantage of the opportunities they are given. But, given the path he took to get to LA, which was full of detours, I totally understand how he didn’t quite handle the moment as well as he could have. And, I also understand that the Dodgers have a ton of outfielders in their organization that are very good as well.

Tulsa has Jeren Kendall, Romer Cuadrado, James Outman, Ryan Noda, and Clayton Daniels.

OKC has Zach McKinstry, Luke Raley, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Steven Souza Jr., and Drew Avans.

Then LA has Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock, Mookie Betts, and Chris Taylor.

So, making it into an everyday LA lineup in the outfield will be a pretty daunting task for anyone. But one thing you can count on with Zach Reks is that you can’t count him out.

 

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