For the second time in as many years, Zach Kroenke is a Rule 5 pick suddenly lifted out of the Yankees organization. The Diamondbacks drafted him sixth and felt lucky to get him that low.
As a second-time draftee, Kroenke has options. The best-case scenario is making the Arizona bullpen, but if the Diamondbacks don’t keep him, Kroenke can elect free agency rather than return to the Yankees minor league system.
“I’ve talked to my agent about it,” Kroenke said from his snow-covered home in Nebraska. “We’re trying not to mention it. It’s probably bad luck. We’ll take it as it comes, see what the Yankees say if that comes. I’ve always enjoyed being with the Yankees.”
There were rumors that the Yankees might take Kroenke with the first pick, use him as a replacement for Phil Coke, and Kroenke was excited by that possibility. But Arizona isn’t a bad situation for him. The Diamondbacks just traded one of their top young left-handed relievers in the Curtis Granderson deal, and they currently have only one other lefty who seems likely to open with the big league club. that lefty, Clay Zavada, is a changeup pitcher who’s been tougher on right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters.
“They assured me that I’d get a better shot with them,” Kroenke said. “Not like I did with the Marlins.”
Florida took Kroenke in last year’s Rule 5 but hardly used him in spring training. He threw a bunch of bullpens, got into two games and was offered back to the Yankees. He became Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Pitcher of the Year, but remained overshadowed by Coke and hard-throwing Mike Dunn. Kroenke didn’t get a call-up in September, wasn’t added to the 40-man in November and now he’ll try to take advantage of his big league opportunity with the Diamondbacks.
“It’s one of those things where you want to stay even keel,” he said. “You can’t put too much of yourself, too much emotion out there into it. You just have to stay focused. Just take a little page out of the front office’s book, just call it business. You come out and try to do your job and exceed expectations.”