With baseball season set to start across the country, SchoolSports.com ranks the nation's Top 50…
Dual Threat: Zach Putnam
In 2004, Zach Putnam led Pioneer High School to its first ever state championship in the school's history. The right handed pitcher and shortstop, posted massive numbers both on the mound and at the plate. For the season, Putnam went 9-0 with a 0.53 ERA on the mound. In fifty-three innings, he struck out sixty-one batters, while walking just five. Zach was no slouch at the plate either, posting a .466 batting average, with sixteen home runs which were tied with Sean O'Sullivan for the most in the country, sixty-seven RBI, five triples, eight doubles, while stealing twenty-five bases in the process. As a result of his monumental season, Zach received First Team All-State and Dream Team honors for the second consecutive season. Putnam is also the number one ranked pitcher in the 2005 class, and the number three ranked high school player in the nation.
"It feels great" said Putnam about all the honors given to him. "It is something I feel proud of, but it is not something I dwell on. It is great and makes a person feels good to see your name around, but that is not something someone should be satisfied about, because you can always do better."
Putnam, who also carries a 3.7GPA, will look to enjoy his senior season, and relax both on the field and in the classroom. His junior season was pressure packed as it was the most important year for him academically, and as far as baseball was concerned, with many colleges looking at him.
"Last year definitely was a little tough" Putnam said. "My lifestyle since I was a little kid dealt with balancing school and baseball. It gets pretty hectic at times, but I am used to it by now. The only thing I think it takes away from is the time you get to hang out with your friends who are not athletes."
After being recruited by virtually every top college program in the country, Putnam narrowed his choices between the University of Michigan and Vanderbilt University. Putnam believed in the direction that the baseball program at Michigan was heading to, and the connection he felt with Rich Maloney made it difficult for him not to choose his local college.
"What it came down to was the direction of the program and Coach Maloney" the two-way player said. "I really believe in what he is doing for the program, and I think we have the same interests, are on the same page with everything, and I think it will be outstanding to have a coach who I can work together with and consider a close friend as well."
Whether or not Putnam attends Michigan is another story, as he is virtually a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2005 Major League Baseball Draft if everything goes to plan. Many scouts project Putnam to be a pitcher in professional baseball, however, that could change depending on the road he travels. If Putnam signs a professional contract out of high school, it could very well be as a pitcher, however, if he attends college his future will depend on how he blossoms at the plate and on the mound.
"I don't even know if I can tell you what I enjoy doing more" the Michigan native said. "I feel the mound is my home and where I will probably be in the future. I also love swinging the bat, and have been doing that for the majority of my career."
Putnam's repertoire features a fastball, circle change, curveball and a splitter. He works in the 91-93 range with his fastball, however, it has been clocked as high as 95 mph. His sharp curveball tops out at 75-78 mph. Putnam mentions his fastball as being his most dominant pitch, however, his curveball ranks just as high.
"My split finger is a work in progress right now, some days I have it and other days it is non-existent. I would have to say my strikeout pitch is my fastball at this point."
Throughout his high school career Putnam believes he advanced further on the mound than at the plate. He went 7-0 his freshman year on the mound, however, began his stride during his sophomore year, after working with Tom House on his pitching, and polishing up his repertoire.
"The last two and a half years I would have to say I blossomed in pitching more than hitting. I was a hitter most my life and went into pitching when I felt comfortable with how my hitting was."
At the plate, one of the biggest strengths of Putnam is his ability to make contact with the ball. His three-year career batting average at Pioneer currently stands at .500 and he has struck out only twenty-four times in 399 plate appearances during that time.
"I would have to say my ability to put the bat on the ball is my biggest strength. I may not always hit a rocket, but I don't strike out often. I am real aggressive before I get to two strikes, and then when I do reach a two strike count, I am real good at spoiling pitches.
Putnam who plays a solid shortstop in high school right now, expects to play third base in college, and is spending his time now working himself out at the hot corner to be ready if the switch occurs.
"In the upper levels I think I will move to third base, and right now am trying to work on getting comfortable at the corner."
Putnam, who used to follow the Braves as a youngster but grew away from them after they traded most of his favorite players, models himself after Nolan Ryan on the mound.
"I just love the way he takes control of a game, and I try to model myself on the mound after that."
As far as next June is concerned, Putnam hopes to go in the first round, however, believes it is too early to form any kind of opinion.
"I am hoping to go in the first round, or more specifically in the top half of the first round" Putnam told scout.com, "but I don't really have any expectations. I guess when draft day comes, we will see how things played out."
If you're wondering what the result would be if Zach Putnam the hitter faced Zach Putnam the pitcher, Zach answered that question for us.
"Well I would have to go with the pitcher" he said laughing. "I definitely know how to pitch to myself, and would retire myself in two pitches."
So how would Zach the pitcher retire Zach the hitter?
"I can't reveal that" a smirking Putnam said.
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