The Indians sent a jolt through its fanbase yesterday by promoting top overall prospect Bradley Zimmer. With issues in the outfield ranging from injury to whiffitus, fans hope Zimmer’s five-tool pedigree can bolster the defense and add a bit of power to the lineup. Zimmer struck out three times in his debut last night — strikeout rate is the one major concern remaining in his game — but it seems likely that the young outfielder will remain with the club for good.
Let’s get to know him a little bit!
That Zimmer is an excellent all-around athlete should surprise no one. His father, Eric, played college baseball while his mother, Cathy, ran the 400-meter hurtles at San Diego State. If that’s not impressive enough, his great-grandmother still participates in the family wiffle ball game every Thanksgiving. She is 102-years-old and needs a walker, yet still swings the bat with power to all neighbor’s yards.
The result of this bloodline is that Zimmer is now a Major League player and his brother Kyle is knocking on the door with the Royals’ AAA affiliate.
Growing up in La Jolla, the brothers played baseball together all throughout their childhood. They played on the same little league teams, the same travel teams, the same high school team. When it came time for Bradley to attend college — The Cubs drafted him in the 23rd round out of high school, but he declined to sign — he followed his brother Kyle to the University of San Francisco.
To ask the young men how they feel about the prospect of facing each other in the Major Leagues after years of wearing the same uniform is to hear an echo of every friendly sibling rivalry on the planet. In an interview with USA Today’s Jorge. L Ortiz in 2016, Kyle said “I was telling him I’ll throw it behind him. He says he’s going to hit a home run. We’ll see. I think the competitive juices will definitely pick up when I see him step in the box.”
When the confrontation happens, they’ll be only the fifth pair of brothers in the last forty years as the pitcher and hitter in an at-bat.
How soon can the Indians expect Bradley to make an impact on the Major League roster? Immediately, if you believe every coach he’s ever had. “He’s going to hit for average, he’s going to hit for power, he’s going to steal bases. He’s got all the tools necessary to play at the highest level,” said his college coach Nino Giarrantano when interviewed by the Mercury News.
Indians A affiliate Lynchburg manager Mark Budzinski weighed in during an interview with the San Diego Tribune. "He's a tall (6-foot-5) guy with power. He covers a lot of ground in center field, gets great jumps. He steals bases. He uses his speed really well, gets to full speed quickly. He's that special player that doesn't come along too often."
Even his father believed from a very young age. When discussing the talent of his sons, Eric Zimmer said, “[Bradley] he’s the real ballplayer. All their youth I’d say, ‘Kyle, you’re pretty good, but you’re no Bradley, so you better study.’” Unsubtle family digs notwithstanding, being better than an eventual first round pack that is a year older than you charts a prodigious path.
Major League scouts have more tempered expectations. With his strikeout issues Zimmer isn’t necessarily expected to hit for average any longer. His power and speed play exceptionally well in center field, however, and routine 20-20 seasons are a definite possibility. Given the carousel in center since Grady Sizemore’s body imploded, the Indians would be more than happy with that level of production.
How does himself feel about his ability to perform? Quite positive. While disappointed with his exclusion from the roster out of spring training, Zimmer told Jordan Bastian, “I wanted to be here. It was more excitement [during the spring] knowing what I was able to do in my time there and show the staff and these guys that I'm playing with now, what I'm able to do and contribute to this team winning. Ultimately, that's why I'm here, to help these guys win."
We’d like that as well, Bradley. With the outfield situation begging for a consistent producer alongside Michael Brantley, excellent play from Zimmer will solidify his spot on the team and ensure that he will be here, and for a long time.
Also, hit a few dingers off of Kyle when he gets called up, won’t you?