Long on potential and long in limbs, Zach Dezenzo didn’t arrive at Ohio State a power hitter.
The Marlington High School product remembers hitting two home runs during his prep career.
Greg Beals saw something in the “long levers” of Dezenzo that suggested big flies could be in his future.
“He’s got great leverage and that leverage should play out into some power,” said Beals, who recruited Dezenzo to Columbus and coached him for four years. “… I think there is the element that he was tall before he was strong. Those long levers weren’t really strong yet.”
The levers quickly became strong. Very strong.
Zach Dezenzo:Zach Dezenzo is All-Big Ten in baseball; Kaycee Ollis, Melissa Holzopfel honored in softball
Fast forward four years, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Dezenzo carries the frame and the label of a bona fide power hitter from the right side as he readies for the Major League Baseball Draft, which starts Sunday with the first two rounds, competitive balance picks and compensation picks. Rounds 3-10 follow Monday and rounds 11-20 on Tuesday.
Dezenzo, who tied a single-season Ohio State home run record with 19 as a senior (a record he shares with Massillon product Dan Seimetz), doesn’t really know when he might be selected. Prospects Live has Dezenzo 201st in its prospect rankings. MLB.com does not have Dezenzo ranked in its top 250.
“There are so many different moving pieces and parts that go into the draft and why people get chosen when and where they do,” he said. “For me being a 22-year-old senior, I’m going to be one of the older guys in the draft. I can tell you that for sure. But where I go, I’m not really sure.”
Being a 22-year-old senior does not help his leverage in negotiations, although Dezenzo does have another year of eligibility at his disposal thanks to the 2020 COVID season. For his part, Dezenzo, who is being advised by Joe Speed out of Cincinnati, has his sights set on becoming a pro.
He went through this process last year.
Zach Dezenzo put up big numbers for Ohio State baseball team
Dezenzo produced a strong junior season at Ohio State (.302 batting average, nine HRs, 31 RBIs) and then starred in the wood-bat MLB Draft league with a .339 batting average and a league-leading six home runs in 14 games last summer. One blast went 447 feet. But teams weren’t willing to pony up the signing bonus money he wanted, and he wasn’t willing to lower his price.
So he went undrafted, and he went back to work.
“I decided to bet on myself and come back for a fourth year at Ohio State,” Dezenzo said. “I’d say it worked out.”
Dezenzo improved basically across the board, hitting .319 with team highs of 54 runs, 18 doubles and 54 RBIs to go with the 19 home runs. He slugged .700 in earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. He also had another good showing in the Draft League, batting .275 with four home runs and 15 RBIs in 20 games for Mahoning Valley.
Beals saw a player who chased fewer pitches, improved his approach and fine-tuned his mechanics in 2022.
“He took advantage of another year of player development in our program,” said Beals, who was let go in May after 12 years as Ohio State’s head coach. “Coming back to college was kind of a business decision for him to say, ‘All right, what do I need to get better at to climb the ladder?’”
Dezenzo owns 38 career home runs, third all-time for the Buckeyes.
Zach Dezenzo looks the part of MLB Draft prospect
He estimates he put on about 20 pounds from the time he walked on Ohio State’s campus in the fall of 2018 to his first game as a freshman in the spring of 2019.
The power numbers followed, with 10 home runs his first season.
Dezenzo’s batting average didn’t suffer as his home runs increased.
“I don’t really try to hit home runs, so to speak,” he said. “I’ve stuck with my approach of hitting hard line drives to the gaps and over time, as I grew physically, those balls that were doubles and triples before tend to get over the fence now.”
Dezenzo certainly looks the part of a professional athlete. An American League scout said Dezenzo might have the best physique in the scout’s entire region, which covers two states and part of another.
“He gets off the bus and that’s the one you notice,” the scout said.
Strikeouts are the main concern with Dezenzo. He struck out 50 times in 207 at-bats this past season, which was an improvement over the 47 Ks in 169 ABs as a junior (24.2% from 27.8%).
“My question is, ‘Why are you striking out that much in a Big Ten conference that didn’t have a ton of really good arms this year?’” said the scout, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Beals isn’t sure how the swing-and-miss numbers from college translate to the pros.
“For me from an evaluation standpoint, take the swings and misses and everything else out. Just look at the run production,” Beals said. “… That’s what the game’s designed to do. Is this player producing runs? Zach Dezenzo produced runs at a very high rate this year.”
The scout laughed in offering this assessment of Dezenzo: “I think it’s going to be a power-hitting corner guy at the end of the day with a lot of strikeouts, which is basically what the game is now anyway. So, hell, maybe he’ll fit right in.”
Versatility, attitude strengths for Zach Dezenzo
Dezenzo played shortstop in high school and college. But he projects more as a corner infielder in the pros. He played mostly at first base in the draft league this summer while working at third base before games. He also played a little bit of left field.
Beals was asked for a Dezenzo player comp. Richie Sexson, the 6-8 slugger who broke into the bigs in 1997 with Cleveland and went on to hit 306 career home runs, was one name he mentioned.
“From an overall standpoint, I would compare him to a Jeff Kent,” Beals said of the former MVP and five-time All-Star who was a middle infielder on the bigger side. “I’m aging myself a little bit, but I like Zach as a potential second baseman. Stay in the infield and be an offensive, power, run-producing second baseman. He’s a good enough infielder to stay in the infield.”
Dezenzo checks a lot of boxes off the field as well.
He earned Academic All-Big Ten three times. He graduated and was able to walk in commencement in December. As a senior, he was voted a team captain, an honor he called “one of my biggest achievements.”
If this is it for Dezenzo at Ohio State, he leaves with gratitude for his time in Columbus.
“All the numbers and accolades are very cool,” he said. “But I think the thing I’ll take away the most is how I was able to develop as a man and in terms of my character. In four years, going from a bright-eyed kid at 18 years old my freshman fall, to where I’m at now, I think the growth is very cool to see. I’ve met some great people and some great teammates along the way that are going to be in my life to the end of it.”
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