Indians’ Bradley Zimmer Has Got “The Goods”

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

David Freier was born in Brooklyn New York in 1966 less than a decade after the Dodgers had departed the very same borough. His first professional baseball game was at Yankee stadium and to this day he and his father still argue over who started for the Orioles that day (his father says Mike Cuellar, while he insists it was Jim Palmer). Being a lover of underdogs he naturally became a Mets fan. He grew up in Montclair New Jersey which had the advantage of being home to two baseball legends, Yogi Berra and Larry Doby, as well as having a local college which regularly held baseball card conventions that fed his baseball card hobby. While attending college at the University of Richmond he and some of his friends attended a Richmond Braves game in the then (1985) brand new Diamond stadium, and now home to the Richmond Flying Squirrels. This began what has become a passion for the minor leagues of baseball. During his 10 years as a Richmond resident he and his future wife developed an affinity for the Braves, especially when Richmond fan favorite Francisco Cabrera scored the winning run to knock the Pirates from contention and vault the Braves into the World Series of 1991. During extensive travels he has rooted for the Minnesota Twins, Minneapolis Loons, St. Paul Saints, Iowa Cubs, Philadelphia Phillies, Erie Sea Wolves, Berkshire Bears and of course the Lynchburg Hillcats. To date he has visited over 110 different baseball parks in which he has seen a game. He joined the Society for American Baseball Research in 2000 and has been a member ever since, where he participates on the Biographical and Minor Leagues committees when time permits. In his day job he is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Science at Lynchburg College in Virginia.

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