MMN Exclusive: Right-Handed Reliever Joe Zanghi

By Yehuda Schwartz

January 22, 2019 No comments

Joseph Zanghi/Photo by Ed Delany, MMN

Joe Zanghi was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 24th round of the 2015, though he did not sign with the team.

The former full-time high school catcher has now flourished in the Mets system as a right-handed reliever.

He has been with the Mets for three seasons since signing on March 1, 2016. Joe went to Cumberland County College in New Jersey which made his signing with the Mets a homecoming of sorts. Joe grew up a fan of the Mets with Mike Piazza and Jose Reyes being his favorite players.

The 24-year-old uses a two-seam fastball, circle changeup and slider. In 2018, he compiled a 3.39 ERA and 1.16 WHIP through 61 innings and only walked 16 compared to the 49 he struck out for the St. Lucie Mets, Binghamton Rumble Ponies, and the Las Vegas 51s.

Zanghi continued his trend of limiting homers in 2018, allowing only three and he’s given up only five in 152 career innings. He’s also allowed just 126 hits in that span.

Joe was sent to the Arizona Fall League to refine his repertoire in advance of a crucial season in his development. He had a 4.50 ERA with nine strikeouts and only two walks through 10 innings for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

I conducted a quick interview with Joe Zanghi which brought out a lot of interesting information and experiences.

MMN Schwartz: What are your plans in terms of workouts for the offseason?

Joe Zanghi: I’m pretty deep into the offseason workouts and I’m about to start throwing off the mound to see where everything’s at. I’ve been working out a while with my trainer getting stronger and getting quicker so that’s how the offseason has gone.

MMN: What are some goals for the 2019 season? Obviously, you are getting close to the big leagues.

Zanghi: Obviously the big leagues are the ultimate goal, but I just want to continue to perform facing some of the great hitters in baseball and just going in there every day and competing, doing everything I can to just reach that ultimate goal and just continuing to get better everyday.

MMN: You reached Triple-A this year which leaves you one step away from playing for your favorite MLB team.  What has that been like for your family?

Zanghi: My family has been with me every step of the way, good days bad days they happen and no matter what my parents and sisters have been extremely supportive of me trying to reach that ultimate dream. When I do have my bad days they tell me to keep at it and when I have the good days they tell me there is still a long way to go. I am so grateful for everything my family has done for me to fulfill this dream.

MMN: So you grew up a Mets fan?

Zanghi: I grew up a little of a Yankees fan, but my best friend was a Mets fan and I used to go to a lot of games with him and I just became a Mets fan.

MMN: How surreal will it be for you to step on Citi Field’s mound knowing you made it and are on your favorite team?

Zanghi: Its something that to even fathom it is hard to do and to see that, that dream is even something that can be happening within this upcoming time is just hard to even relate to it. Its just unbelievable almost….as you can see I’m even having trouble putting it into words to even be able to have the opportunity.

MMN: When players have trouble putting that into words you know its a genuine special feeling.  

Zanghi: It would not only be special to me but a lot of people around me who have been with me for the entire journey it’s more than just me its everybody who has been there with me.

Joseph Zanghi/Photo by Ed Delany

MMN: As a step in your development, the Mets sent you to the Arizona Fall League. What was that experience like for you?

Zanghi: The Fall League was probably one of the best experiences for me. The talent that was there was unbelievable. If you just look at the rosters, it was unbelievable. The rosters itself was one thing but the experience I had, a lot of the guys there are gonna be in the big leagues. Not only that but the population of them and how they were as human beings, the knowledge that they had about baseball, the ability to learn from them, and taking all of these other opinions on baseball was something that I will never be able to experience again. I’m really happy I did that.

MMN: How do you think that AFL experience helped you as a player to get to your ultimate goal of making the major leagues?

Zanghi: I had some very good outings there and I had a couple of very bad outings there. I learned to roll with the punches. You are going to have your good days and you are going to have bad days. Obviously, you hope that the good days outweigh the bad days but I learned a lot from my bad days there. I had a good coach, Jeremy, the pitching coach that came down from the Mets, and after my outings, he really genuinely helped me figure out what I had done wrong in my bad outings and take that to better myself for my next outings.  

MMN: You’re a former catcher, how do you think that has helped you become a successful pitcher?

Zanghi: I realized as a catcher that hitting is hard. Converting to a pitcher and realizing how hard it is to hit helped me with my confidence at least as a pitcher. I can relate to guys on a better level because I understand what they have been through and at the professional level that I am at, I understand how hitting is a hard thing and I understand how my catchers want to work and just be on a relationship with my catcher, having been a catcher makes it easier I feel like.

MMN: You throw a circle-change, can you describe the grip and what it is supposed to do?

Zanghi: The circle-change is a pitch that is supposed to keep a hitter off your fastball. You have your regular four-seam grip and then you move your middle finger and index finger over and make a circle with your pointer finger and your thumb, you just about have the grip of a circle-changeup. It’s simple. Try to make a four-seam grip with your middle and index finger.

MMN: What movement is the circle-change supposed to make?

Zanghi: It’s like a sinker but you want to get 8-10 miles an hour off.  To have the hitter off balance and change speeds. Never let the hitter sit on a certain pitch.

MMN: Is there any pitcher that you try to emulate?

Zanghi: Not in particular.  Every MLB pitcher has their own style and I have my own style.  There are guys that I want my pitches to move like but I know I will never be just like theirs. I try to do more gameplans and things to make me do well rather than pitches.

MMN: What MLB player did you idolize growing up?

Zanghi: You can’t put one in my mind. I always wanted to be like any of them. All of them have something unique that makes them who they are and I want to have that one thing in me that someone can say that they want to be like me growing up like someone says ‘hey I want to be like Joe Zanghi’s two-seam fastball’ but not me specifically but something about me.

MMN: Analytics and sabermetrics have become a big part of today’s game. What are your views on them, and how do you apply them to your game?

Zanghi: That stuff has become an important thing and it does have an effect on the game. I think that there are a lot of good things that come out of sabermetrics and analytics. You can’t lie when it comes to data. Those things have a big impact and the guys who have better data do perform better. When it comes to that stuff (analytics) there are things that you miss, the character of the person, the desire, the will, the want, I think those things don’t come up in sabermetrics but come up in the person. Sometimes you can’t measure a person’s heart. You can measure a fastball, everything else but you want to measure their want. The players want will be more than data can ever be.

MMN: Do you have a certain mentality when you are out on the mound?

Zanghi: My mentality is definitely to be aggressive, throw strikes and pound the zone, I want to get guys out. I know a lot of guys mentality is like the hitter is nothing but mine is I’m going to pitch and you have to hit, I have to get you out be it by strikeout or another way. I want you to feel uncomfortable in the box and get you out. That’s how I think about it while I’m pitching.

MMN: What are your thoughts on bat flips and do you take offense to them?

Zanghi: Go for it.  We are playing a game. If you want to bat flip on me after you hit one off me? Congratulations and you can celebrate a bit but the next time I see you things will be different. I was raised on the unwritten rules of baseball. If you always hit homers and then you hit one off of me and you bat flip, that’s when I get frustrated.  

MMN: Who is the most advanced hitter that you have ever faced in your entire career?

Zanghi: Cole Tucker from the Pirates. He is this lefty who has great control of his bat and never strikes out he just is a tough out and even if you make a good pitch, he fouls it off.  He is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen. He is worse than Altuve for me because I’m a righty pitcher and he is a lefty hitter and he just has my number but I’ll work on watching film of him so the next time we meet, hopefully in the majors, I get him out.  

MMN: Who was the best MLB player you have ever faced?

Zanghi: That’s a great question!  Wilmer Flores is one of the toughest guys. He was just very comfortable in the box, the way he worked the strike zone was very impressive to me. I could throw a borderline pitch to him and he would know whether to take it or if it was something he could control. I thought he was one of the toughest players I’ve ever had to face. Walk-off Wilmer. He is so good at walk-offs because he is always so comfortable.  

MMN: What do you think of the moves Brodie Van Wagenen has made?

Zanghi: He, first of all, is a great guy, he went out with all the guys from the Fall League and spoke with us. In terms of moves, all he wants to do is make the team better and bring a World Championship back to New York, he has done a great job of that. All he wants to do is win.

MMN: One of the hot topics around the organization is Peter Alonso. You got to see him firsthand in the Fall League. Can you tell Mets fans about Peter Alonso?

Zanghi: PETER SMASH. That’s all I got to say about him. The kid just hits baseballs. That’s all he does. He is special when it comes to hitting. He will be a serious impact guy for the Mets. I would put money on that. He is a special guy.

MMN: Another player that you played with in the fall league gets overlooked, Andres Gimenez.  I don’t know so much about him. Can you tell me about him?

Zanghi: I call him Gime (Him-ee) he is one of my favorite players. The way he plays the game, he always plays with heart and with a smile on his face. He is special. He loves baseball and he is so young. His potential is so high. The first time I played with him, last year in Columbia, his first at-bat he homered, and we all looked at each other in the dugout and we said this kid is special. He continues to grow, put on weight, put on bat-speed, put on power, I think the sky is the limit for him at the plate. In the field, he is clean. It is fun just watching him field and take ground balls. I got lucky enough to watch him in High-A. He is special.  

MMN: How do players view the term prospect?

Zanghi: Everyone wants to be called a player of the New York Mets.  That’s what we all are working for. To be called a prospect is humbling its a good feeling but you always realize that there is something more there that you want to work for.  

MMN: Thank you so much, Joe!

Zanghi: Yep, anytime!

You can follow Joe on Twitter at @Zanghi13