The San Francisco Giants have signed right-handed pitcher Zack Littell, 25, to a minor league contract and given him an invitation to spring training.
Littell had a strong season in 2019, when he had his largest season in the majors, posting a 2.68 ERA for the Minnesota Twins with 29 appearances, and 32 strikeouts against nine walks in 37 innings pitched. He struggled in 2020 however, dealing with hamstring problems and elbow inflammation. He had a 9.95 ERA in six appearances, and notable gave up five home runs in 6.1 innings.
He’s a fastball/slider pitcher, with a fastball that sits in the mid-90’s and can touch 97, and a good slider that gets strikeouts when it’s working. A scout quoted by the Chronicle notes that Littell is a multiple-inning type of reliever, although in his 2019 season, he averaged a little less than 1.1 innings pitched per appearance. He was also used by the Twins in their 2018 “Opener” experiment as a rookie in 2018, although he gave up eight runs in seven innings in the role, and struggled with control, walking more (6) than he struck out (5).
The right-hander joins and increasingly crowded group of such pitchers trying to earn spots in the Giants bullpen. The Giants signed James Sherfy to a minor league deal earlier in the week, and also previously signed John Brebbia. They will compete with returning pitchers including Reyes Moronta, Shaun Anderson, Trevor Gott, and Tyler Rogers for the bullpen.
Littell was originally drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 11th round of the 2013 draft. In November of 2016, the Mariners traded him to the New York Yankees for LHP James Pazos. He later moved to the Twins at the 2017 trade deadline as part of the package for the Yankees to get Jaime Garcia.
He was ranked as the Twins #18 prospect by Baseball America before the 2018 season, and was ranked #23 ahead of the 2019 season.