Is WVU baseball still an NCAA Tournament team after an early exit from Big 12s? The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast

For the first time since 2015, WVU baseball failed to come away with a win at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship. Now, the Mountaineers must wait until Monday to learn if they'll get a chance to play another game.    Hosts Nick Farrell and Sam Coniglio recap West Virginia's short stay at Globe Life Field, and try to peer into the crystal ball to predict if the Mountaineers will make the NCAA Tournament next week.    Subscribe to The Gold and Blue Nation Podcast wherever you get your shows. 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Three different Major League Baseball teams have had former Mountaineer players pitch for them in 2022.

Could former WVU jack of all trades Braden Zarbnisky be next?

So far this year, MLB clubs have played with expanded rosters, and have been able to have as many as 14 pitchers on their active roster. That will continue through the middle of June, when it is expected that the number will decrease to 13.

Some baseball pundits believe that the MLB could eventually, either this season or next, limit clubs to just 12 pitchers on the active roster.

If that does happen, teams will be looking for ways to keep as many arms in major league uniforms as possible, according to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.

That could open the door for the former Mountaineer to get his call to the show.

Speaking on his weekly appearance on “The Athletic Baseball Show” podcast, Rosenthal offered the following thought process of how teams could skate around a lowered limit of pitchers on the roster:

“I would expect, yes, that there might be an increase in teams trying to take guys that maybe pitched in college and high school and saying, ‘Listen, this might be a better path to the big leagues. You might be more valuable to us if you could somehow be good enough to obtain two-way eligibility.’ … It will be something to see if teams kind of try to get around the limits by developing more players of that kind.”

Enter the former Mountaineer Swiss Army Knife. Zarbnisky was a standout two-way player for West Virginia.

He was named a third-team All-American by the National College Baseball Writers Association as a sophomore in 2017. That was the same year he was named the District II Player of the Year, and was a finalist for the John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year.

He hit for a .336 average while going 6-2 on the mound with a 2.75 ERA that season.

As a redshirt senior in 2020, Zarb was leading the Big 12 with a .431 batting average and 13 steals when the season came to an end.

In total, Zarbnisky was a lifetime .304 hitter, with 145 hits, 101 runs scored, and 55 stolen bases. He also pitched to a 13-5 record and 10 saves, with a 3.58 ERA.

Since being signed by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2020, Zarbnisky has been primarily used as a pitcher. In fact, he’s only taken three at-bats in his Minor League career.

Zarbnisky has played as high as the Triple-A level but is currently with the Double-A Reading Fightin Phils. So far this season, he has made 14 appearances and has a 1-1 record with a 4.22 ERA with 22 strikeouts through 21.1 innings pitched.

The Philadelphia front office also got a look at him earlier this year in Spring Training.

If Zarbnisky does get called up to the majors, there are conditions he would have to meet to obtain two-way eligibility. Those conditions are: Pitch at least 20 Major League innings; Play at least 20 MLB games as a position player or DH, with at least three plate appearances in each game.

As of now, it appears that Philadelphia is looking at Zarb as just a pitcher.

But if expectations become reality, and MLB pitching staffs do shrink to 12 or fewer names, the Phillies could ask to see how well he can handle himself in the batter’s box.