Through the first 15 appearances of his professional career, Zac Lowther is doing his best to throw conventional wisdom out the window. Maybe some pitchers don't need a collection of fielders behind them, after all. In reality it sounds preposterous, but a quick peek at what the 22-year-old is accomplishing on the mound is no joke.
The No. 17 Orioles prospect continues to rack up strikeouts at a prolific rate with Class A Delmarva, helping him earn South Atlantic League Pitcher of the Week for April 16-22. In two starts for the Shorebirds, Lowther posted a 0.90 ERA while allowing one run on five hits and a walk over 10 innings. He struck out 18 batters over that span, including 11 on Sunday, to bring his total to 31 in 16 innings. That K total is tied with No. 6 White Sox prospect Dane Dunning for most in the Minors.
"We just have a great support staff here and some really great guys in the locker room," said Lowther, who is 2-1 with a 0.56 ERA and 0.44 WHIP in three starts this season. "Just being able to watch our starters go out there every day is a really good mental way to see how batters adjust and what goes with that. It helps to have coaches and players who are good at bouncing ideas off each other, and that's something I like to utilize and that I've found success with so far.
"To be honest, I've been a bit surprised at how well I've adjusted [to the pros]. But I just continue to work the same way I have my whole life and how all of my coaches have taught me. You can always be better than you were yesterday, so there's always things to work on. The physical side and mental side of things are equally important."
• View the Offensive Player of the Week winners »
Strikeouts are nothing new to the Brooklyn Heights, Ohio native, who whiffed a single-season school record 123 batters during his junior year at Xavier University in 2017. Lowther was the 74th player selected in last year's Draft, earning him the distinction as the highest-ever Draft pick in Musketeers history. His run of dominance continued after he was assigned to the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League, where he made 12 appearances (11 starts) for Aberdeen to begin his pro career. The southpaw finished with a 1.66 ERA and 75 punchouts against 11 walks in 54 1/3 innings for the IronBirds.
"I definitely take pride in the strikeouts," Lowther said. "It's also just become a part of my game. But knowing you've won that at-bat against the hitter ... that you've dominated it, is a really good feeling. To know that they couldn't do anything about it is fun, plus it keeps the pace of the game going when you're ringing guys up."
Including a career-high 13-strikeout effort over six hitless innings in his 2018 debut, Lowther has fanned 10 or more batters in three of his 14 career starts and is averaging 13.6 strikeouts per nine. He's established a strikeout-to-walk ratio of more than eight to one while holding opposing batters to a .163 average, including a 5-for-53 (.094) mark this season. The 6-foot-2, 235-pounder has surrendered one run or less in all but two of his 14 professional starts.
"I've learned to develop a short-term memory. You take some of the positives and work on the negatives," Lowther explained. "But again, the coaching staff and our pitching coach Justin Lord are so helpful. I talk to him after every start and we dive into things that went well and things that didn't. We'll take that and work on it in bullpen sessions each week. I definitely know things will get more difficult, but by working hard and wanting to get better, I know I will. It'll be a fun and really challenging thing at the same time."
Below is the complete list of Minor League Pitchers of the Week for April 16-22:
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HB, 2 BB, 10 K
||2-0, 2.13 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 12 2/3 IP, 11 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 15 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 15 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 12 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 13 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 2 G, 1 GS, 8 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 10 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 12 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 2/3 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 2 BB, 7 K
||1-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
||0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 G, 1 GS, 7 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 HBP, 0 BB, 7 K
||1-1, 0.90 ERA, 2 G, 2 GS, 10 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 18 K