Taken in the 18th round of the 2015 MLB Draft out of Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, Zehner has developed into a tough at-bat, with a maturing approach at added power the plate this year. Although the strikeouts are up to 25.5% vs. 19.9% last year, he has shown consistent ability to work deep into counts and draw plenty of walks (13.4% walk rate). His swing is timed-up well for his size and well-proportioned 6’4” frame, with a quiet setup and wide stance. He has an up-the-middle approach, driving the ball into both gaps with regular hard contact. Zehner is also developing more loft and backspin carry this year and seeing his fringy raw power manifest in-game, with 11 home runs among his 36 extra-base hits this year after just three home runs at Tampa in 2016, while slashing .264/.361/.414. Even though the swing and miss is still in his game, and his cuts can look grooved at times with limited barrel control, he’s showing good knowledge of the zone and isn’t prone to expand it. He showing the patience to look for the best pitch to drive hard, and he’ll swing aggressively when he sees it, and take the walk if not. He can open his front shoulder at times, which hurts his plate coverage low and away, and also contribute to the strikeout rate, but overall, it’s an average hit tool. As he develops a more disciplined approach and improved pitch recognition skills, especially with two strikes (where he could stand to shorten up the swing to get the ball in play), he should settle in at above-average on-base utility with average game pop.
On defense, Zehner shows reads and jumps that play average, and he takes above-average routes with above-average speed on balls hit to the wall, and solid reads on liners hit in front of him. He has athletic instincts and overall above-average range. His arm shows good carry with accuracy and is also average. On the bases, he’s got above-average speed, with 4.16-4.24 home-to-first times, and while he can be an occasional threat to steal a bag, the speed plays best covering ground when underway in the outfield.
Zehner has played 29 games in right field as well, and also been taking limited reps at first base (three games) as the Yankees test his utility. He doesn’t have a true standout tool, but with his ability to get on base and hit with some pop, and with average defense at the corners, he has a floor of a Role 40 OF-5 fourth outfielder, with some future potential to deploy to center field in a pinch thanks to his athleticism and range in the field. His ceiling is that of a Role 50 left fielder, where the hit tool, arm, and overall defensive profile are best suited for everyday duty.