Joseph Zanghi made his pro debut this season after signing with the Mets in February as a minor league free agent. He was drafted by the Reds in the 24th round of the 2015 draft, but did not sign. The Mets picked him up and he had a great season as the Brooklyn Cyclones closer.
Zanghi spent most of his baseball career as a catcher and became a full time pitcher for the first time in his career this season. He pitched 29.1 innings out of the bullpen, going eight for eight in save opportunities. He pitched to a 1.23 ERA and struck out 45 batters and gave up only 20 hits.
In this interview with Zanghi, he talks about how he became a Met and how was successful this season. He also compares himself in a reliever we all know.
MMN – First of all thanks for the time to do another interview with us from MMN.
Joseph – Of course, happy to be answering the questions for you!
MMN – This was your first season as a pro, what you do you attribute your early success to?
Joseph – When it comes to the success this season I think what helped me the most was trusting my abilities on the mound and going right after hitters always trying to make sure I was ahead in the count. I wasn’t looking for strikeouts but more trying to make quality pitches that a hitter couldn’t get a good barrel on.
MMN – You signed with the Mets after you got drafted by the Reds in 2015. How did that process go and how did you become a Met?
Joseph – The process in becoming a Met was rather interesting. After things fell through with the Reds I was taking classes again at my junior college (Cumberland County College) and they helped me just get back in front of scouts again. Then time passed and my agent had me start throwing bullpens for scouts in the winter. He then called me to tell me that I had to throw a bullpen for Mr. Ricciardi (JP) at Citi field within the week. Not much time passed and next thing I knew I was a Met.
MMN – You grew up a Mets fan. On this squad who you do you like the most?
Joseph – I can’t even pick a single guy that I like the most on the team. If I had to pick one, I would have to go with Jose Reyes just for all the energy that he brings to the games everyday, think his impact has really shown for the team.
MMN – You became a full time pitcher this season. How much do you miss hitting and catching?
Joseph – When it comes to catching and hitting I do miss it. It’s a lot of fun being able to play everyday and compete at the plate and behind the plate. However, coming in late in games in pressure situations is something I wouldn’t trade anything for.
MMN – How do you like to attack hitters and what is your pitch arsenal?
Joseph – The approach I use is different for almost all hitters. The first couple of innings during the game we were big on watching the hitters, seeing who were first pitch swingers and seeing who takes a pitch. A lot of it just came with what I was feeling that night, if my fastball was there I would use it as much as possible limiting off speed pitches to later counts.
Some days if it wasn’t there I would rely on commanding the slider early to get ahead and then try and work a ground ball within three pitches. I was happy with how my fastball command got better as the season went on as well as being able to reach the 90-91 mark on my slider. As far as the changeup goes, it’s been a work in progress. Spending time in instructional gave me a great feel for the pitch and I think I’ll be able to use it often in important counts this upcoming year.
MMN – Does it help, that you have experience catching pitchers?
Joseph – Catching has helped me in pitching in many aspects. It gave me a better understanding of pitching and hitting locations and the importance on building relationships between catcher and pitcher.
MMN – Which current MLB pitcher would you compare yourself too?
Joseph – If I had to pick an MLB pitcher that I most resemble and stride to be as it would have to be Josh Smoker. Smoker is a lefty, but I think we both share similar qualities on the mound. The way he’s handled himself through his journey and persevered is something I admire most about him. During spring training I was always referred to as “mini smoker” because we both enjoy getting after it in the weight room and the guys always say we look alike.
MMN – How will you prepare for next season and do you have an indication where you will pitch next season?
Joseph – Having just finished instructs, I’m going to go home and spend a week or two with family and friends staying away from the game in this time. But as soon as that times up I plan on hitting the weights and focusing on increasing my flexibility. I’ll also be working out with Reds starting pitcher Tim Adleman and I’m sure I’ll pick up on some things from him. As far as where I’m pitching next year I’m not very concerned about. The Mets will place me where they think I’ll have the best place to succeed and learn and I’m big on believing in the process. Wherever I do go, I’ll work extremely hard to be the best I can whenever I step on the mound.
MMN – You were recognized by us from MMN as we had you in the All-Star Bullpen. What worked for you this season and how did you become such a dominant closer for the Cyclones?
Joseph – I really can’t thank my success enough this year just on the help that I got from the staff and the other guys. I was very honored to have been a part of the All-Star bullpen. Having it been my first year of being a pitcher only, I had a lot to learn and throughout spring training and extended spring everyone at some point gave me some piece of advice that I could translate into the season.
MMN – Final question. Which teammates do we have to keep an eye on as they develop?
Joseph – There are so many guys I played with this year who I think an eye needs to be kept on. Peter Alonso‘s power is scary, Desmond Lindsay is one of the most impressive guys I’ve ever watched. Justin Dunn and Thomas Szapucki were just fun to watch when they pitched. Electric stuff and I’m really excited to see what the future has in store for them.
MMN – Thanks for answering our questions and congrats on an amazing first season. Enjoy the offseason and good luck next year.
All photos courtesy of Ed Delany