"He was a really good guy to take a shot at to see if we can get a back-end piece for the Major League bullpen," said Dana Brown, a special assistant to Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos.
Brown, who left his position as the director of scouting with the Nationals earlier this offseason to join Anthopoulos' front office, was more than a little familiar with Zinicola. The reliever was a sixth-round pick by Washington in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft and Brown believes Zinicola could be on the verge of turning a corner in his career.
Brown noted that the 24-year-old Zinicola features a fastball that registers between 90-96 mph and a strong slider. Last season, Zinicola posted a 1.74 ERA in 17 games at Double-A Harrisburg in the Nationals' system before struggling with Triple-A Syracuse, where he finished with a 7.56 ERA across 26 games.
Zinicola's issues at Triple-A did not alter Brown's opinion of the pitcher.
"I think what it was, he had inconsistent command mixed in with a little bad luck," Brown said. "But stuff-wise, he's up to 96 with a plus slider. I think once he can get the command, get the ball down a little bit, I think he's going to have a chance to take off."
Overall, Zinicola finished with 47 strikeouts and 19 walks over 54 Minor League innings in 2009. He went 1-2 with a 5.33 ERA in 43 contests between his stops at Harrisburg and Syracuse.
Selecting Zinicola with the 10th pick in the Rule 5 Draft cost the Blue Jays $50,000 and the club is required to leave the pitcher on the active roster for the entire 2010 season. If Toronto decides against keeping Zinicola with the big league club, the Jays have to offer him back to the Nationals for a price of $25,000.
Beyond Zinicola, the Blue Jays also selected 22-year-old right-hander Ruben De La Rosa from the Nationals' system during the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft. De La Rosa spent last season with the Gulf Coast Nationals, striking out 44 hitters over 28 innings and finishing with a 4-1 record with a 0.96 ERA and three saves in 15 games.
"De La Rosa is a guy that we had multiple looks at," Brown said. "We also had some pretty good reports from our scouts in Toronto on him also. He's got a plus curveball. His numbers are really good. He pitched at a lower level, but he's up to 93 [mph] and he's a very competitive kid, too."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.