Zimmer Flashing His Skills in Arizona Fall League Play
Bob Toth | On 11, Nov 2016
There was a certain amount of faith that the Cleveland Indians were placing in outfielder Bradley Zimmer when they were willing to move top prospect Clint Frazier to the New York Yankees as part of the four player package used to acquire reliever Andrew Miller prior to the non-waivers trade deadline during the season.
Zimmer has rewarded that belief in him by putting together a good showing thus far during Arizona Fall League play.
Zimmer was one of a handful of Indians players to head to the desert to continue their season in the annual post-season league. He is joined by catcher Eric Haase, shortstop Yu-Cheng Chang, outfielder Greg Allen, and pitchers Trevor Frank, Cameron Hill, Michael Peoples, and David Speer.
The 23-year-old outfielder and top prospect in the Indians farm system, who will turn 24 later this month, split the 2016 regular season between the Double-A Akron RubberDucks and Triple-A Columbus Clippers organizations. He put together a .253/.371/.471 slash line with the ‘Ducks, hitting 14 homers and driving in 53 runs while stealing 33 bases. After moving to Columbus late in July, he slashed .242/.349/.305 with one homer, nine RBI, and five stolen bases in 37 games as he struggled some in adjusting to a new level over the last six weeks of the season.
He has appeared in 18 games for the Mesa Solar Sox entering play on Friday. He has 14 hits in 59 at bats (.237 average), but has shown a strong eye at the plate, leading the fall league club with 16 walks to produce a .416 on-base percentage, the highest mark on the squad and seventh-best in the league among regular players.
He has shown a little bit of everything that he can do at the plate, as he is tied for the team lead in doubles (and is fourth in the league) with five, has hit two homers, and driven in nine runs. He has also flashed his speed on the bases, picking off eight in nine chances, tied for the league lead with known speedster Allen. In the field defensively, he has yet to make an error. He has scored at least one run in nine of his last ten AFL games and leads all players in the league with 20 runs scored on the season. His strikeout total is tops on the club, something that appears to be part of the package with Zimmer as he struck out 30.7% of the time over the course of the 2016 season, including 56 times in 37 games with the Clippers.
The best of the numbers for the left-handed hitting Zimmer have come off of right-handed pitching. He has hit .263 with a .472 OBP and .500 slugging percentage in those 38 at bats, with three doubles and both home runs accounting for half of his hit total. All nine of his RBI and 14 of his 16 walks have also come against right-handed opposition. He has hit just .190 with a .292 OBP against left-handers with two singles, two doubles, and eleven of his strikeouts in 21 at bats.
Zimmer was the only one of the Indians minor leaguers in Arizona to be named to the AFL All-Star team, where he was one of five outfielders on the East Falls Stars roster. It was his second All-Star appearance of the year after being named to the Eastern League All-Star team while with the RubberDucks. He was also the winner of the Arizona Fall League Bowman Hitting Challenge prior to the fall season, hitting four home runs and plenty of targets during his two-minute time in the batter’s box.
Zimmer was supposed to participate in the Arizona Fall League last season, but a hairline fracture in his right foot sidelined him for the offseason. The 2014 first round pick out of the University of San Francisco has three seasons of minor league ball under his belt.
The development of Zimmer is significantly tied to the future outfield makeup of the parent Indians roster. Rajai Davis, who split time in Zimmer’s center field spot with rookie Tyler Naquin, is a free agent. Naquin slowed in the latter months of the season and in the playoffs as the league adapted to his plate approach. Michael Brantley, while expected to be back and healthy in left field in time for spring training, has to be considered with at least a little bit of trepidation as he managed to appear in just eleven games for Cleveland before requiring another procedure on his non-throwing shoulder. Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer, and Abraham Almonte all contributed at some levels, but all have notable weaknesses.
Zimmer’s AFL showing may not be enough for him to figure in the Indians roster decisions coming out of spring training, but the numbers are encouraging after a dip in his production at Columbus. A strong showing with the Clippers to start the 2017 Triple-A season could put him on the Indians’ radar for a mid- to late-season call-up.