This season has been a big year for prospect promotions all throughout the MLB. We’ve seen promotions of plenty of top prospects such as the Dodgers’ Cody Bellinger, and the Giants’ Christian Arroyo. The Indians have joined these teams today as they’ve called up their number one prospect, Bradley Zimmer.
Injuries on top of injuries have been the highlight for the Indians over the last few weeks. After seeing key players like Corey Kluber, Austin Jackson, and Brandon Guyer go down, the Indians are now placing Abraham Almonte on the 10-day disabled list. In lieu of this move, the Tribe has decided to call up Zimmer to replace the ailing Almonte.
Zimmer, 24, has been steadily producing this season at Triple-A Columbus. In 33 games, Zimmer has slashed .294/.371/.532 with five homers, 22 runs scored, 14 RBI, and nine stolen bases. He’s also posted a 153 wRC+, and a .395 weighted on base average (wOBA). Once All-Star Francisco Lindor graduated from prospect status, Zimmer quickly filled the role as the top prospect in the organization after being selected in the first round of the 2014 draft.
During his three-plus years in the minors, Zimmer is averaging about 15 homers, 57 RBI, and 34 SB a season. He’s also averaging about a 13.5% BB% and a 31.3 K%. While Zimmer has an elite ability to get on base, he also has a tendency to elongate his swing and strike out more than what most stat heads are comfortable with. That being said, the other tools that Zimmer brings to the table can outweigh his strikeout potential, to an extent.
Bringing up Zimmer now makes sense for the Indians. Currently, their outfield consists of Michael Brantley in left field, Lonnie Chisenhall in center field, and Daniel Robertson in right field. While Jose Ramirez has the ability to spend some time in the outfield as well, it doesn’t seem that Tito wants him moving off of third base, or out of the infield. With Yandy Diaz being optioned today as well, it looks like Zimmer should get the majority of the at bats in right field or center. In Columbus this year, Zimmer has played in 26 games at center field and only 8 in right field. The Indians have been committed to keeping Chisenhall in center, and he hasn’t looked terrible out there (1 DRS in 18 games), but he’s not an elite defender out there either. Now I’m not saying that Zimmer is either, but he has more experience in center field then Chisenhall does, so Tito may end up moving Chisenhall back to right field for the time being.
One of the big tools to Zimmer’s game is his ability to create havoc on the base paths. During his time in the minors, Zimmer has had a knack for trying to take a base almost every time he reaches first. In 2015, he stole 44 bases, and then stole 38 in 2016. Even though Zimmer strikes out a ton, his elite contact skills, and on base ability, allow him to be an annoyance to the pitcher in more than just hitting the ball out of the park.
Speed is a huge part of this game, but he also has power to all parts of the field. Five of his eleven doubles have been opposite field hits, but only one of his five home runs have been anywhere else other then right field. His isolated power (ISO) this season is sitting at .238, which is well above the average for his level. You can see where his hits/outs lie in the spray chart below.
Zimmer definitely has a tendency to pepper his ground balls to the right side of the infield, which is typical for a pull type player. When he is putting the ball in play, 13.1% of at bats have resulted in a ground ball and 8.28% have been for a fly ball. This isn’t really an extreme problem, but Zimmer may run into a ton of shifts with how much he hits to the pull side. If he can continue to hit for power to all fields, then Zimmer could become a valuable asset to the Tribe this.
It is unbeknownst to us how long the Indians are planning on keeping Zimmer up in Cleveland. With Guyer and Almonte down for a significant amount of time, it’s possible that Zimmer stays with the team for an extended period to essentially fight for a spot on the roster past their return. It’s not common for the Indians to promote their top prospects at this point in the season. Lindor didn’t get promoted to the club until June of 2015. Tyler Naquin was the outlier last year as he was rostered out of spring training due to Brantley’s injury. With other options down in Columbus like Richie Shaffer passed over for Zimmer, I think this shows that they’re ready to give this rookie a try at the big leagues.
It also doesn’t hurt that Zimmer has hit .371/.476/.629 over his last ten games, while also carrying a 14.3% BB%, 28.6% K%, and a .524 BABIP.
Welcome to The Show, Bradley Zimmer.
Photo: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports