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Zimmer Continues to Break Out of His Early Season Slump

Zimmer Continues to Break Out of His Early Season Slump

| On 10, May 2016

The future outfield for the Cleveland Indians looks fun.

While the current outfield consists of All-Star Michael Brantley, it also is made up of veterans Rajai Davis and Marlon Byrd, along with former first round infielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Byrd and Davis are obviously not going to be here long term, and Chisenhall is a place holder until the big bats of Double-A Akron can reach the big leagues. One of those big bats for Cleveland is current Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer.

Zimmer, 23, was drafted in the first round of the June Amateur draft by the Indians in 2014. He previously attended the University of San Francisco where he played baseball prior to the draft. In his initial season with the Indians, he spent 45 games with short season Mahoning Valley, and three games at Low-A Lake County. In these 48 games, he hit .302/.400/.492 with six home runs, 12 doubles, two triples, 12 stolen bases, and 32 RBI.

In 2015, he was promoted to High-A Lynchburg where he took the league by storm. He spent most of his season there and played in 78 games. In that span, Zimmer hit .308/.403/.493 with ten home runs, 17 doubles, three triples, 32 stolen bases, and 39 RBI. This team was stacked, as he had other Indians top prospects like Clint Frazier and Nellie Rodriguez for teammates, but Zimmer is who stole the show in the first half.

He was later promoted to Double-A Akron in the middle of the season, spending 49 games with the RubberDucks. During his time at Akron, Zimmer hit his first road bump of his career. He hit only .219/.313/.374 with six home runs, nine doubles, one triple, and 24 RBI and 12 stolen bases. It was revealed at the end of the season that Zimmer was playing with a fractured foot most of his time at Akron, which could have been the reason for such a slump after being promoted. While Zimmer was supposed to attend the Arizona Fall League, he instead spent it healing his foot, which sort of derailed his typical offseason routine.

The results of a strange off season for him showed themselves going into the season.

Zimmer has not looked like himself for much of this first part of the season. In the month of April, Zimmer only hit .237/.368/.447 with two home runs, six doubles, two triples, seven stolen bases, and 13 RBI. His power numbers are still good, but his contact rate dropped significantly, and his strikeout numbers were way off the charts, uncharacteristic of Zimmer. In 76 at bats, he only walked 12 times, but struck out 27.

The month of May has been friendlier to Zimmer thus far.

Eight games into the month, Zimmer has hit .273/.368/.788 with five home runs, one triple, five stolen bases, and 13 RBI. He’s already matched his entire month of April’s RBI count in a matter of eight games. What’s nice to see is how consistent his power numbers are, especially in a park like Canal Park which can tend to play very large.

Zimmer feels like he’s finally getting back to playing like himself this season.

“I think it’s just sticking with my approach,” said Zimmer after Monday night’s game. “I think I got away from my approach for a while. I was trying a little too hard. If I continue to stick with my approach and have good at bats.”

Currently, Zimmer has hit three home runs in a matter of three games. On Monday night, Zimmer launched a ball to dead center that landed right over the time clock by the batter’s eye. Getting timing down has been huge for Zimmer at the plate.

“Sometimes he can get started a bit late on the fastball,” said manager Dave Wallace about Zimmer. “As long as he’s ready on time, in what we call the ‘launch position.’ He’s seeing pitches better. He likes it out over the plate, like almost everyone does.”

What’s been worrisome about Zimmer this season is how much his K% has increased this season. In 2015, Zimmer had a K% of 25.2%, and in 2016 it’s currently sitting at 31.1%. He’s going to strike out a lot, that’s a fact. It comes hand-in-hand with a power hitting player. As long as he can keep his walk rate consistent, then the team can live with the strikeouts as well. Currently, he’s walking more this season than ever before (at 13.1%). There is bound to be a regression there, but his BABIP is just slightly higher than normal, so he’s also making good contact. These are good signs for Zimmer, even if he’s striking out at a much higher clip.

It’s not a matter of if Zimmer is going to make it to the majors, it’s just a matter of when. Like previous top prospect Francisco Lindor, Zimmer could have a really solid career ahead of him. We’ve seen what a bad Zimmer can look like, and we’ve seen what a good one can look like as well. He possesses the ability to provide from all aspects of the game, but there are flaws that can be exposed if he tries to do more than he’s capable of. Zimmer knows what his limits are, and we’re starting to see him turn back into the player that we saw in 2015. He’s a big time prospect, and the Indians should take every reservation they can to make sure that he’s completely ready when they need him the most.

“He’s a really good player. He’s getting good pitches to hit and he’s doing damage with them. It’s impressive, and it’s not necessarily surprising,” Wallace said. “We just want him to focus on getting good pitches and being on time. When he is, this is what he can do.”

Photo: David Monseur/MiLB.com