Zack Gelof was an intriguing two-way prospect as an infielder and right-handed pitcher out of the Delaware high school ranks in 2018.
He offered more potential as a position player and drew interest as a potential top-10-round prospect by professional scouts leading up to the 2018 MLB draft. The Cleveland Indians selected Gelof in the 38th round of the draft. But, Gelof already had his sights set on attending the University of Virginia.
Gelof’s decision to attend Virginia has paid off. He has enhanced his skills and developed into one of the top position players in the college ranks.
Less than three years after drawing draft interest out of high school, Gelof is once again going through the draft process.
Scouts believe Gelof could be an early-round pick in July’s draft and potentially move up draft boards with a strong junior season.
“I wasn’t going to get drafted out of high school anywhere near where it would take me away from UVA,” Gelof said. “It worked out in high school. I think when you have a team-first mindset, it all works itself out. If you just work to get better every day and for your team, it all will work out.”
Gelof has produced at a high level as a middle-of-the-order hitter at Virginia.
Gelof made an immediate impact at Virginia in his freshman year in 2019. He started all 56 of Virginia’s games as a freshman and posted a .313 average with 13 doubles, two home runs and 32 RBIs in 264 plate appearances. He also stole 16 bases.
After his freshman season, Gelof played in the Northwoods League during the summer. He recorded a .349 average with nine doubles, three triples, two home runs and 28 RBIs in 177 plate appearances in 39 games. Gelof also notched 22 stolen bases.
Last season, Gelof was off to a notable start in the pandemic-shortened season. He batted .349 with six doubles, two triples, five home runs and 18 RBIs in 82 plate appearances in 18 games.
In 11 games, Gelof has a .325 batting average with four doubles, one home run and seven RBIs this season.
Gelof is a 6-foot-3, 205-pound right-handed hitter with a simple setup at the plate who has notable raw power and uses all parts of the field.
Gelof should have at least average hit and power tools in pro ball. He struck out 52 times while drawing 24 walks his freshman year. But over his last two years, he has improved his plate discipline, recording 22 strikeouts and drawing 20 walks at Virginia.
Overall, Gelof is a well-rounded player who has strong makeup and a team-first mindset.
“Personally, I don’t really like evaluating myself and let others do that,” Gelof said. “But the leadership mentality and bringing it every day for my team goes a long way. I think that’s why I get better every day and why I can help people get better around me so we can ultimately win. I know what I can do and have confidence in myself.”
Defensively, Gelof has adjusted well to third base in college after mostly playing shortstop in high school. It took time for Gelof to have confidence in his abilities and develop the proper footwork at third base, he said. Gelof should stick at third base long-term, as he possesses athleticism and a strong arm.
Gelof hopes to refine his defensive skills and plate discipline over the remainder of this season, he said.
“For hitting, I want to be on the barrel more and shoot the gaps,” Gelof said. “In the field, I want to make the plays. I want to be a guy who can steal some bases and go first to third when I need to. I just want to show people that I can run. Those are just a few things I want to improve on.”
Virginia advanced to the College World Series four times in seven years from 2009-15. That stretch included the Cavaliers finishing as the NCAA tournament runners-up in 2014 and national champions in 2015.
The Cavaliers have not qualified for the NCAA tournament since 2017, however. This season, the Cavaliers boast a talented roster, headlined by Gelof, and believe they can make a deep postseason run.
“We just need to bring a positive mindset every time we come to the field,” Gelof said. “As far as the winning goes, I think it comes down to really good pitching and defense and then timely hitting.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.