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South Side Sox Top Prospect No. 72: Zack Muckenhirn

Among a rich group of high-minors lefties, Zack Muckenhirn was as good as any in 2021.

Among a rich White Sox stable of high-minors lefties, Zack Muckenhirn may have had the very best 2021.
Tiffany Wintz/South Side Sox

Zack Muckenhirn

Left-Handed Relief Pitcher
205 pounds
Age: 27
SSS rank among all left-handed relief pitchers in the system: 8

Zack Muckenhirn, a native of Delano, Minn., went 6-1 with a 0.89 ERA with 59 strikeouts during the 2013 regular season, and was a key piece of his team’s run to the Class AA state tournament. Muckenhirn wasn’t highly heavily recruited until his senior season, after which he opted to pitch for the University of North Dakota. He pitched fairly well during his three years there, but caught the attention of scouts as a junior when he walked 14 and struck out 99 in 92 2⁄3 innings for the Fighting Sioux to go along with a 3.59 ERA. As a result, he was selected in the 11th round by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2016 MLB draft.

Splitting his first full year of professional ball with Rookie League Aberdeen and Low-A Delmarva, Muckenhirn was primarily a starter but posted disappointing results (5.13 ERA, 1.60 WHIP, .314 OBA). The Orioles promptly moved him to the bullpen in 2018, where he produced excellent results in A-ball before succumbing in Double-A with Bowie. He pitched well in 2019 in his return to the Bowie Baysox, but produced a 17.18 ERA in his four-game stint with Triple-A Norfolk. Although Muckenhirn was a member of Baltimore’s alternate training site during the 2020 pandemic, he didn’t get the opportunity to pitch in the majors. Then, just days before the 2021 season was slated to begin, he was released.

The White Sox signed Muckenhirn to a minor league deal on May 1, and he was arguably the best full-season southpaw reliever in the team’s minor league system. In 30 games totaling 40 2⁄3 innings for Birmingham, he posted an impressive 1.77 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. In those innings, Muckenhirn allowed just 30 hits (.204 OBA) and 19 walks (11.4%) while striking out 42 hitters (25.3%). His ground ball rate was superb, as opponents hit worm-burners 54.4% of the time. Lefties hit .192 against him, while righties fared marginally better (.212). Muckenhirn pitched to contact when nobody was on base (.263 OBA), but bore down with runners in scoring position (.130 OBA).

An Orioles scouting report back in 2016 said this of Muckenhirn: “He’s a four-pitch lefty with a 90-93 mph fastball with good late life at times. He changes speeds well and has some deception in his delivery that get him swings and misses in the strike zone. His change is his best off-speed offering that has good drop and comes in at 79-81 mph. His slider (80-81) is more consistent than his curveball (72-76), but both can flash major league average at times. He works down in the zone well and will move the ball in and out and up and down.”

The White Sox owned a full cupboard of lefty relievers in Charlotte last year, including two with major league experience in Jace Fry and Nik Turley. That depth made it difficult for guys like Muckenhirn to receive a well-deserved promotion, and the White Sox opted to add Anderson Severino and Bennett Sousa to the 40-man roster ahead of Muckenhirn. He likely will begin next year’s campaign with Charlotte.

2022 South Side Sox Top 100 White Sox Prospects

72. Zack Muckenhirn, LHRP
73. Cameron Butler, CF
74. Godwin Bennett, RF
75. Logan Glass, CF
76. Dario Borrero, 1B
77. Craig Dedelow, RF
78. Carlos Hinestroza, RHRP
79. Gunnar Troutwine, C
80. Kade Mechals, RHSP
81: Caberea Weaver, CF
82. Layant Tapia, SS
83. Homer Cruz, RHRP
84. Kaleb Roper, RHSP
85. Jerry Burke, RHSP
86. Emerson Talavera, RHRP
87. Isaiah Carranza, RHSP
88. Davis Martin, RHSP
89. Tyler Osik, 1B
90. Samil Polanco, 3B
91. Manuel Veloz, RHRP
92. Pauly Milto, RHRP
93. Fraser Ellard, LHRP
94. Colby Smelley, C
95. Manuel Guariman, C
96. Everhett Hazelwood, RHRP
97. Garrett Schoenle, LHRP
98. Kyle Kubat, LHRP
99. Anderson Comas, RF
100. Jake Elliott, RHRP