Like me, you probably don’t have too many memories of Bradley Zimmer from the 2019 campaign. No, you haven’t been hit with a sudden bout of amnesia; for all intents and purposes, Bradley Zimmer did nothing in 2019. Sure, baseball-reference claims he played in 9 games and accumulated 14 plate appearances, but those may as well be made up symbols because I remember zero contribution from Zimmer this past season.
A year of injuries
Back in July of 2018, Bradley Zimmer had surgery on his right shoulder that required him to be out for 8-12 months. Everyone hoped that this meant that he would be back in time for Spring Training 2019 and ready to contribute during the regular season. His official timetable revealed that the team was aiming for him to return in April or May 2019. However, in the final week of March as Zimmer was starting to ramp up baseball activities, he had a setback that pushed his timetable back. Hindsight says that Tito and the training staff downplayed the injury referenced in Mandy’s tweet (shocker!) because Zimmer wouldn’t find a baseball diamond for quite some time. In May, Zimmer was DHing for the AZL Indians to try and get some semblance of a swing back. Near the end of the month, the plan was for him to play the outfield for about a week before transferring to Columbus to rehab with the Clippers.
That news came on May 22; on May 28, the team determined he wasn’t ready to go to Columbus and needed more time in Arizona. May turned to June and still there was no word on when Zimmer would be ready to begin the next steps in his rehab assignment. Fast forward to August, when Zimmer had still not played in a rehab game up to this point, and it seemed that he was actually making some progress this time. There didn’t seem to be any lingering impact from the surgery and the side wasn’t bothering him as much as it had been. Finally, on August 11, Zimmer was finally in a lineup for the AZL Indians against the AZL Cubs. He went 0-for-2 with a strikeout, but at least he was doing something resembling playing baseball.
He played for about a week in Arizona before heading to Akron for a few games. Things seemed to be coming together, albeit slowly. After going 4-for-13 in four games with the RubberDucks, Zimmer moved to Columbus with the Clippers to finish out the month of August. His final two games with the Clippers on August 31 and September 2, Zimmer went 6-for-10 with a double, a triple, a home run, and just one strikeout. He was catching fire, the injuries seemed to be in the past, and maybe he would be a last minute addition to the Tribe’s roster and contribute to the playoff push in September.
Narrator: He did not.
Bradley Zimmer appeared in a major league baseball game for the first time in 2019 on September 14 as a pinch hitter against the Twins. He grounded out to end the inning. This seemed to be a theme for his time in Cleveland in September; as mentioned above, he only had 14 plate appearances. In those plate appearances, he slashed a miserable .000/.071/.000. He pinch ran on September 18 and scored a run and he drew a walk in his last game of the season. He also struck out 7 times, so it seems as if the strikeout issues that have plagued his entire career were not magically gone.
What happens next?
Honestly, I’m not sure. Thanks to Cleveland’s questionable outfield situation going into 2020, it should be assumed that Zimmer will at least be in the conversation for a starting role if he’s healthy. He won’t usurp Oscar Mercado as the starting center fielder, nor should he. Oscar Mercado dazzled and impressed in his first year in the majors; Bradley Zimmer, on the other hand, has yet to live up to his first round pick potential that Tribe fans have been waiting on for years. Zimmer’s best year was his rookie year in 2017 when he slashed .241/.307/.385 (wRC+ 79) in 332 plate appearances. It’s been sharply downhill ever since. It’ll be a crowded competition for starting spots come March with Greg Allen, Jake Bauers, Jordan Luplow, Franmil Reyes (?!), and Tyler Naquin in the mix. At this point, I honestly have no idea where Bradley Zimmer would rank in that grouping of players, but most would probably put him near the bottom of the list if he makes the list at all.