FRISCO, Texas -- The Rangers drafted 50 players in 2008. Zach Zaneski was not one of them. Yet Zaneski, who was signed by the Rangers a week after that Draft, is one of eight Double-A Frisco players headed to the Texas League All-Star Game on Thursday. A catcher from Rhode Island, Zaneski is batting .321 with three home runs and 19 RBIs. He earned a spot on the All-Star team despite playing in only 31 games, as he's been splitting time with Jose Felix, who has played in 45 games. "I was really surprised, to be honest," Zaneski said. "I was talking to my mom and dad the other day. From where I am now to what happened in the past, I'm just fortunate to have the opportunity that I have with the Rangers."
Of the four RoughRiders position players who will play in Tulsa, Zaneski is the only one who isn't among the Rangers' Top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com. Shortstop Jurickson Profar (No. 1), first baseman Mike Olt (No. 3), and outfielder Engel Beltre (No. 19), along with pitchers Barret Loux (No. 18) and Justin Grimm (No. 20), were also selected to represent the RoughRiders. Knowing he's not as highly regarded of a prospect as some of his teammates, Zaneski admits that he plays with a chip on his shoulder. "My dad tells me to keep the fire burning. And I do," Zaneski said. "Nothing's been given to me. I've had to work hard and prove myself every step of the way and I'm going to have to keep doing that. I know that. I'm ready for that." Zaneski has proven himself at the plate so far this season. While playing for High-A Myrtle Beach in 2011, he was named to the Carolina League's Mid-Season All-Star team. But he has also recognized strides he's made defensively. "Some guys are high Draft picks and talked about by industry publications," Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. "And then there are other guys that just grind away below the surface, surpass expectations, and often beat out the more heralded names. Zach's got a chance to be that guy. He's not the most naturally talented guy out there, but he cares, he works his butt off, and he finds ways to impact the game. Pitchers love throwing to him and managers want him on their club. There's usually a place for people like that." Even the way Zaneski handles the pitching staff has not gone unnoticed. Grimm, who was called up from Frisco and won his Major League debut against the Astros on June 16, has done well with Zaneski behind the plate. He is 4-1 with a 1.45 ERA, 35 strikeouts and seven walks in seven starts when Zaneski catches him. "One thing that stuck out with me was when I threw seven shutout innings [June 4]," Grimm said. "[Zaneski] comes up to me after the game and tells me, 'Grimm, I could kill you sometimes. You know you're better than some of those pitches you were making.' He tries to make his pitchers better, too." "I don't want them to settle for mediocrity," Zaneski said. "I specifically remember that night. His changeup wasn't working as well as he would have liked. He wasn't making adjustments as good as I would've liked." Zaneski's batting average is a team high and well above Felix's .244 average. His .390 on-base percentage and .477 slugging percentage are also among the team's best and considerably better than Felix's .241 OBP and .360 slugging percentage. "I can't really control when I'm in the lineup and when I'm not," Zaneski said. "I try to come to the park every day with the same attitude and just get better." Between Felix, one of the Texas League's top defensive catchers, and Zaneski, they have played every game and helped Frisco capture the first-half Texas League South Division title. The RoughRiders finished four games ahead of Corpus Christi with a record of 41-29. "It's going great. We've played really well," Zaneski said. "The pitchers had a great first half, as well as the hitters. I think this is a very talented team. We have a great chemistry."
Christian Corona is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.