Indians’ Bradley Zimmer Has Got “The Goods”
David Freier | On 25, Mar 2016
Going into 2016, Bradley Zimmer is the top prospect of the Cleveland Indians organization as rated by Baseball America. In 2015 his performance earned him a spot on the Baseball America Minor League All-Star team, the Carolina League All-Star team and a trip to the Future’s Game. At the Future’s Game he was the starting center fielder of the U.S. team. His triple slash numbers for his first full season of professional ball were .273/.368/.446. A similar performance during the 2016 season could have him patrolling center field at Progressive Field before the season’s end.
So what makes Bradley Zimmer such a strong prospect?
In old school scouting language, Zimmer has “the goods”.
When you watch him play it is immediately evident that his full attention is focused upon being successful in the game. His long, lithe figure lends elegance to the way he plays the field. With a 6’4” frame and long legs, which look akin to the churning rods and cranks of an old fashioned steam engine, he steals second base before the fans or the defense realize he has run. His prowess tallied 44 stolen bases in 51 attempts between stops in High-A Lynchburg and AA Akron. After returning briefly to Lynchburg from the Carolina League All-Star game held in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Zimmer reflected on his plan for the second half of the 2015 season.
“Just building off of what I have been doing from spring training until now. Continue to work every day and play aggressive and play the game the right way.”
In what was clearly a break out season for Zimmer, he tallied 16 home runs and 46 extra base hits in 473 at-bats showing that speed and defense were not his only assets. On top of that he played the final two months of the season with a hairline fracture in his foot. This foot injury prevented him from making a trip to the Arizona Fall League, so he has had the winter to recuperate fully.
“He is a low maintenance type of hitter.” said 2015 Hillcats hitting coach Bobby Magallanes. “He is a feel guy, he keeps it really simple. When he is going well, he hits it the other way.”
Looking over his performance, the one area Zimmer will need to improve on as he matures and advances is cutting down on his strikeouts. He had 131 strikeouts to only 55 base-on-balls during the past season. The 131 Ks came in 528 plate appearances; in other words, in almost of quarter of the time he went to the plate, he ended up returning to the dugout without being productive. This works in the lower minor leagues where the emphasis is on development and learning timing. As he gets a handle on Eastern League and/or International League pitching in 2016, he will need to become more selective. If he can reduce that strikeout total and maintain or improve his walk rate, he will vault himself from a 2015 breakout story to the Major League roster.
Fortunately for Zimmer, there are not too many roadblocks in his way. Most of his direct competition comes from previous first round draft picks Clint Frazier and Tyler Naquin. Long term Frazier seems to profile more as a corner outfielder and will likely start the season in AA Akron. Naquin has a chance to make the Indians out of spring training and at least see some time in center field because the Indians’ first option, Abraham Almonte, is on the restricted list. The remaining competition for the center field spot are veteran players who will be part of the team for the short term, but who should not figure in the long term plans of the Cleveland organization.
The one item that may prevent Zimmer from making his Major League debut in 2016 is that he is not yet on the 40-man roster. Being drafted in 2014 the need for the Indians to protect him from the Rule V Draft will not be until after the 2017 season. This makes it a longshot that he would be one of the first players called up to Cleveland if there is a need for an outfielder and he is performing well.
With Marlon Byrd, Will Venable, Robbie Grossman, Collin Cowgill, Joey Butler, and Shane Robinson, all outfielders with experience in The Show in camp for the spring, it is likely Zimmer will have to bide his time or force the issue with an outstanding performance.
Having “the goods”, it shouldn’t be too much longer before the Cleveland faithful will see him slicing across the outfield grass to track down well hit balls and placed him on the verge of a long career in the Cleveland colors.
Photo: Max Oden/The News & Advance