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Cleveland Indians farmhand Bradley Zimmer's huge season puts him among MLB's top prospects

The Carolina League couldn't contain Bradley Zimmer.

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Bradley Zimmer was the Indians' 1st-round pick (#21 overall) in 2014, and he posted strong numbers with Mahoning Valley in 45 games after being drafted, so he entered 2015 as a well-though-of prospect. (He was LGT's #3 Indians prospect.) Zimmer was sent to Lynchburg of the High-A Carolina League at the start of 2015, and he quickly established himself as one of the very best players in the league.

During the Hillcats' first series of the season, Zimmer picked up four hits, including a home run, and also stole two bases. By the end of May he was batting .320/.422/.517, with 9 doubles, 8 home runs, and 22 stolen bases in 24 attempts. He was also drawing praise for his defensive play in center and right fields. The calls for a promotion had already begun.

As has become something of the norm for the Indians, he kept him where he was long enough to appear on the Carolina League All-Star team. A couple weeks after that he played for Team USA in the MLB Futures Game, something of a best-of-the-best competition for players at all Minor League level held during the MLB All-Star weekend. He was given a couple days off after that, during which he was promoted to Double-A Akron.

During his first four weeks with the RubberDucks, Zimmer continued to play very well, batting .266/.367/.543, with 6 doubles, 6 home runs, and 7 stolen bases in 25 games. We didn't know it at the time, but somewhere during those weeks, Zimmer suffered a hairline fracture in his right foot. Whether it was that injury, fatigue from such a busy season in his first full year in the minors, or something else, Zimmer's production collapsed during the final three weeks of the season, when he hit just .132 and had a pair of doubles as his only extra-base hits in his last 19 games.

Zimmer was scheduled to appear in the Arizona Fall League, but because of the fracture in his foot, he'll be asked to take the fall off instead.

Those final three weeks were a bit disappointing, but if what should be a relatively easy injury to recover from was largely to blame, Zimmer looks like one of the very best prospects in baseball, and we can expect him to be ranked accordingly when outlets such as, Baseball America, FanGraphs, and Minor League Ball release their prospect rankings this offseason. Zimmer ought to be among the top 50 on all of them, and perhaps among the top 25. (He was at #21 on a midseason list FanGraphs put out.)

I view Zimmer as something of a co-#1 among all Tribe prospects, with fellow outfielder Clint Frazier. The Indians have a couple question marks in the outfield right now, because Lonnie Chisenhall's glove looked great in right during the final few weeks of the season, but his bat continues to be maddeningly inconsistent, and because Abraham Almonte did very well in center after being acquired at the trade deadline, but his previous track record had not been nearly as impressive. It might be tempting to fill one of those positions with a big acquisition this winter, but by April of 2017, Zimmer ought to be ready to fill one of them. He should begin 2016 back with Akron, but will hopefully play his way up to Triple-A by midseason. Depending on how he and the Indians are doing, a late promotion next year isn't out of the question.

Team (League) G PA H 1B 2B 3B HR SB AVG OBP SLG wRC+
Lynchburg (A+) 78 335 88 58 17 3 10 32 .308 .403 .493 164
Akron (AA) 49 214 41 25 9 1 6 12 .219 .313 .374 102