If you are an Indians fan, chances are that you have heard the name of one of the organization’s top prospects, Bradley Zimmer, the club’s first round pick in the 2014 draft.
If you are unfamiliar with the 22-year-old outfielder (soon to be 23 on November 27th), now may be the time to become acquaint yourself with him and the tools that he brings to the baseball field.
The Indians selected Zimmer with the 21st overall pick out of the University of San Francisco just a year and a half ago. He has quickly ascended through the team’s farm system and, had it not been for a late season hairline fracture in his right foot, he may have had an outside chance of breaking spring camp with the Major League club to fill one of the several holes existing in the current Indians outfield.
Zimmer was slated to head to the Arizona Fall League with several other Indians prospects to build upon a nice first full season in the organization. He hit .273 in two stops in the recently completed season, hitting 16 homers and driving in 63. He began the year at High-A Lynchburg and hit .308 there with ten homers, 17 doubles, 39 RBI, and 32 stolen bases, giving fans of the Hillcats a taste of the multiple tools the young outfielder possesses.
He was named a mid-season All-Star in the Carolina League and also was selected for the MLB Futures Game in Cincinnati. He was the starting center fielder for the USA roster and was hitless in two at bats in the contest.
“It’s fun to watch him progress,” said Indians director of amateur scouting, Brad Grant, after Zimmer was selected to the team. “He’s playing defense like we thought he’d play defense. He’s gone out and hit like we thought he would. He’s added power. He’s added speed on the bases. So, he’s doing everything developmentally that we’ve asked him to do.”
He was quickly promoted to Akron following the break and saw his numbers decline in the Eastern League in his first matchups in a generally tougher league for hitters. In 49 games, he hit .219 with six homers, 24 RBI, and another dozen stolen bases. His season average in Akron was drastically effected by a 1-for-27 slump to end the year.
The team’s number one prospect indicated that he injured his foot earlier in the season when he fouled a pitch off of it. He played through the injury throughout the year, which may have curtailed his numbers upon reaching the Double-A RubberDucks. He was in a walking boot in late September when the Indians fall development program rolled through Progressive Field.
“He had been playing with it for a couple of months,” Indians director of player development Carter Hawkins shared with Cleveland.com during the program, “so he’s a pretty tough kid to be working through that.”
As a 21-year-old, he spent the majority of his 2014 half season in the farm system with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. He hit .304 for the club with eleven doubles, two triples, four homers, 30 RBI, and eleven stolen bases. He advanced to Lake County before his season was complete and had three hits in 13 plate appearances for the Captains.
Zimmer would appear to be a significant part of the Indians’ plans, especially with question marks in the outfield long term beyond left fielder Michael Brantley. He has made a rapid rise through the farm system for being with the team for just a year and a half. He stands 6’4” with a reported weight of 185 pounds and has displayed good speed throughout his brief minor league career. He bats left-handed and throws right-handed. He has played both center and right field, clearly positions of concern for the Indians this offseason, and has made 126 of 149 starts in center. He rates positively with a career .982 fielding percentage thus far.
The La Jolla, California, native was originally selected out of high school in the 23rd round by the Chicago Cubs in the 2011 draft. He bypassed that option, electing instead to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Kyle Zimmer, who was a member of the University of San Francisco team. The elder Zimmer, a 6’3” righty, was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Kansas City Royals and has pitched as high as Double-A in two of the last three seasons after missing much of the 2014 season with a shoulder injury.
His presence in the farm system of a division rival could make for some intriguing matchups in the coming year for the two brothers.
Any remote hopes of the younger Zimmer affecting his parent club positively out of the gates in 2016 were squashed when he was shelved for the Arizona Fall League. An opportunity to gain additional experience there could have put him on a bit of a faster track to the outfield grass on the shores of Lake Erie, but instead, he will likely see some seasoning at Triple-A Columbus, if not with some extra time in the Rubber City. If he stays healthy and productive, he could find himself in Cleveland before season’s end, with a much more significant look for the top prospect come 2017.
In the meantime, Zimmer has shown plenty in a limited sample size to prove that he is a name that Indians fans will need to know, and soon.
Photo: Thomas Roy/New Hampshire Union Leader