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2021 South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 26: Seby Zavala

The one defensive-minded catcher high in the organization will have to find his bat to return to the bigs

MLB: Chicago White Sox at Minnesota Twins Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Seby Zavala

215 pounds
Age: 27
SSS rank among all catchers in the system: 2
2021 SSS Top Prospect Vote: 33
2020 SSHP Top Prospect Ranking: 31
2019 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 20
2018 SSS Top Prospect Ranking: 16

Seby Zavala was part of the final recruiting class of MLB Hall-of-Famer and San Diego State coach Tony Gwynn. After hitting a combined four homers in his first two years with the Aztecs while spending significant time in the outfield, Zavala became a full-time catcher during his junior season which, along with a boost in power, significantly improved his draft position. In that 2015 season, Zavala hit .290/.399/.537 in 231 at-bats with 13 doubles, one triple, 14 homers, 67 RBIs, 30 walks (10.6%) and 52 strikeouts (18.3%).

After the White Sox selected him in the 12th round, Zavala did damage to the AZL by slashing .326/.401/.628 in 129 at-bats by hitting 17 doubles, five triples, four homers, 35 RBIs, 15 walks (10.2%) and 27 strikeouts (18.4%)

Zavala spent the entire 2016 season with Kannapolis, where his numbers unsurprisingly dipped against the stronger competition, as he slashed .253/.330/.381 with seven homers in 93 games.

The next year, 2017, saw Zavala really begin his ascent up the prospect rankings. With Kannapolis and Winston-Salem that year, Zavala combined to slash a more robust .282/.353/.499 in 107 games as he produced 21 doubles, 21 homers, 72 RBIs, 37 walks (8.5%) and 104 strikeouts (24.0%).

Zavala struggled through injuries that sapped his overall production during the 2018 season with Birmingham and Charlotte, but he still managed to slash .258/.317/.418 in 104 games while producing 22 doubles, 13 homers, 51 RBIs, 33 walks (7.8%) and 109 strikeouts (25.7%).

In 2019, more than any year in his career, Zavala had difficulty putting his bat on the ball. In 82 games with Charlotte, he slashed just .222/.296/.471 with 14 doubles, 20 homers, 45 RBIs, 26 walks (7.9%) and 116 strikeouts (35.0%). Zavala did see action in five games for the White Sox, but had just one single in his 12 at-bats with no walks and a whopping nine strikeouts.

Unlike his catching prospect compatriots Yermín Mercedes and Zack Collins, Zavala spent the entire 2020 season at the alternate site in Schaumburg, awaiting emergency catching duty. He was invited to big-league camp in 2021, but was the second cut after Carlos Pérez, making it pretty clear Zavala is now fifth on the catching depth chart behind Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy, Collins and Mercedes.

His arm was graded 50 by MLB Pipeline, largely due to his quick release. His leadership and game-calling skills seem to stand out, while his power is graded at 50.

Zavala will once again move into a hotel room in Schaumburg to start this season, and likely move south to Charlotte once the 2021 season begins there. He is more advanced than Collins and Mercedes defensively, but the strikeouts (which is a huge contributor to his declining average) are particularly worrisome.