At the beginning of the season, the outfield was one of the largest question marks for the Cleveland Indians. Tyler Naquin started off incredibly hot in 2016 but cooled significantly down the stretch. Rajai Davis was being replaced by Austin Jackson. Abraham Almonte missed half of the season due to a PED suspension. Lonnie Chisenhall and Brandon Guyer were the platoon for right field. And no one was sure as to whether or not Michael Brantley would a) stay healthy and b) be effective. With so many question marks, it’s not surprising that the Cleveland Indians find themselves in need of assistance in the outfield.
Enter Bradley Zimmer.
The former first-round pick of the Cleveland Indians finds himself in the majors for the first time in his career, but that’s not necessarily because he’s played his way onto the team. Injuries to Abraham Almonte, Brandon Guyer, and Austin Jackson as well as the lackluster performance of Yandy Diaz have forced the Indians to find a solution to their outfield problem and fast. Michael Brantley has been holding down left field pretty well. With Guyer out for 4-6 weeks, Lonnie Chisenhall is playing full time in either center or right field. And sure, Cleveland called up Daniel Robertson and he had a hit, but a 31 year old Quad-A player is not a permanent solution to their problem. Bradley Zimmer can fix that problem right now.
The main highlights of Bradley Zimmer’s game at this point are as follows:
- He strikes out. A lot.
- He’s got some nice pop in his bat that could make him a 20+ home run threat.
- He swings and misses at way too many pitches.
- His defense can play at any of the outfield positions; he’s got the range and speed for center field and the arm for right field.
- He really does strike out quite a bit.
FanGraphs projects Zimmer to have a wRC+ of approximately 85; below average, but not terrible for a 24-year-old making his major league debut. This would put him right at about the same projections as Austin Jackson and Abraham Almonte, who are both currently injured. Add in the fact that Zimmer rates as a plus defender that can play both center and right field, and you have a player who can give value to the Indians right now regardless of his offensive production. Defensively, it makes sense to have Zimmer on the roster because he will immediately improve the outfield configuration while the only two constants are Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall. Because really, do you want Michael Martinez back on the team? Because that’s how you get Michael Martinez back on the team.
While it may make sense for Zimmer to come up from a defensive standpoint, does it make sense from an offensive one? Well, as mentioned above, the biggest issue Zimmer is having right now is the strikeouts. In 2016 at the Triple-A level, he struck out at an alarmingly high rate (37.3 percent), but he also walked at a decent clip (14 percent). This season in roughly the same sized sample as last season, his walks are down to 9.7 percent (still above average) and his strikeouts are down to 29.9 percent (still awful but not as awful). In other words, he’s trending in the right direction, albeit slowly. His OBP on the season is also up to .371, exactly where it was during his time in Akron in 2016 before being promoted to Columbus. He has a patient approach at the plate that should help him transition at the big league level.
Bradley Zimmer will most likely not be the offensive spark that Francisco Lindor was when he was first called up to the majors. With that being said, all signs point to him improving in the areas he needs to improve in on top of solid defense and a good eye at the plate. Couple that with the fact that the Indians really, really need some help in the outfield, and Zimmer’s promotion seems like a no-brainer. The organization would have most likely wanted to wait a while for him to get his first taste of major league pitching, but now seems as good a time as any to have Bradley step onto the diamond at Progressive Field and show the world what he’s made of.
Best of luck, Bradley. We’re all rooting for you.