Fort Wayne’s Zach McKinstry working to climb back up in Los Angeles Dodgers farm system

Fort Wayne's Zach McKinstry, left, prepares to bat for the Great Lakes Loons against the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Tuesday at Parkview Field. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Zach McKinstry warms up at shortstop before the Great Lakes Loons' game against the Fort Wayne TinCaps on Tuesday at Parkview Field. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)
Zach McKinstry talks after batting practice Tuesday before the Great Lakes Loons' game against the Fort Wayne TinCaps. (Photo by Reggie Hayes of news-sentinel.com)

Zach McKinstry brings a bit of a chip on his shoulder into his third pro season, but it’s a healthy, motivational one.

McKinstry expected to be assigned this season to either Class AA or Advanced Class A, where he’d spent most of his time in 2017. A logjam of middle infield prospects dashed those expectations. The parent Los Angeles Dodgers assigned him to the low Class A Great Lakes Loons.

McKinstry called his father, Alex, they talked about how to approach the situation and they agreed: The best response is to play well.

“You’re mad about it one day, and the next day you go on and show them you should be somewhere else,” McKinstry said.

McKinstry, a former North Side High School standout, went 3-for-4 with a three-run home run as the Loons lost to the TinCaps 7-5 to open their three-game series Tuesday at Parkview Field.

McKinstry played 114 minor-league games last season, primarily with the Advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. He alternated between playing second and third base.

His natural position, the one he played at Central Michigan University, is shortstop.

So it’s a mixed blessing that McKinstry’s return to Great Lakes (where he hit .308 in 17 games last season) includes more time at short. He was at shortstop Tuesday night as he raised his batting average to .429 (9-for-21 in eight games).

“That’s where I was drafted, as a shortstop, so I like playing shortstop,” McKinstry said. “I’m actually really comfortable at second, too. Most of my spring training games were at second until they told me I was coming here to play shortstop. I played a little bit later in spring training at shortstop.”

McKinstry, who turns 23 on April 29, injured his right (throwing) wrist during weight training in the offseason and that set back some of his offseason baseball work. He wasn’t able to hit or throw as much as he would have preferred.

McKinstry hit .226 with 13 doubles, three home runs and 28 RBIs in 82 games at Rancho Cucamonga last season.

The offseason setback allowed him to refine his mental approach and how to improve it.

“(I’m working on) knowing the game a little bit better, learning something new every day,” McKinstry said. “Seeing pitchers and talking to guys in the dugout about pitchers, staying focused the whole game instead of thinking, ‘I’ve already got my two hits, I’m just going to chill the rest of the game.’ There are guys struggling, maybe you can pick them up, talk about the pitcher with them, try to get their approach a little bit better, stuff like that.”

Another area of concentration applies to his situation: Making the best of every day at the park.

“Last year, that was one of my big things coming into the season,” McKinstry said. “I wanted to play every game for that day and that day only. I tried to push away the night before and I didn’t really want to worry about the future too much.”

As McKinstry learned, certain areas of a pro baseball career are out of his control.

“You just have to stay within your approach every day,” McKinstry said. “You’re still competing in the field. They’re giving me the opportunity to compete every day. I’d rather be playing here than sitting the bench somewhere else.”


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