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Catching up with Bradley Zimmer

Outfielder Bradley Zimmer looks primed to get an opportunity in Cleveland at some point his coming season. Mark Nikolov recently had a chance to sit down with him and discuss his time with the Indians...

Everyone experiences a day in their life that will forever remain in their memory.  The day that Bradley Zimmer will never forget was in the spring of 2014 when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians.

It was not an ordinary day of celebration for the Zimmer family.  It was also an experience of deja vu.  Two years earlier, Bradley’s older brother Kyle was drafted 5th overall by the Kansas City Royals.

“MLB Network was in the living room just two years earlier," Cathy Hutchins said. "It was so exciting and unbelievable.

Hutchins, mother of Kyle and Bradley, ran track at San Diego State University.  Apparently, Bradley gets his speed from her.

Bradley’s father played collegiate baseball at the University of California in San Diego and currently works at the university as an anesthesiologist.  His background in baseball helped groom two of his children into professional players, though at times, Bradley would do the grooming himself.

At the age of 3 he would head out to the backyard to play tee ball, a game he then called “whack-a-ball!”  His dad would constantly set him up to bat on the right side of the plate, but Bradley would always cross over to the left.  Because of his persistence, he can now experience the benefits of being a left-handed batter in pro baseball.

Bradley played college baseball at the University of San Francisco before entering the Indians farm system.  In an interview that I had with him, Bradley expressed how appreciative he was to his former team and coach Nino Giarratano.

“I’m really happy with my experience as a player and student at USF," Zimmer told me. "I’m also very thankful and grateful to everyone that helped me over there."

His decision to go to USF and follow in his brother Kyle’s footsteps was a good one.  In 2011, Bradley was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 23rd round out of La Jolla High School in San Diego.  At that point he considered going pro, but instead - based on advice from his older brother Kyle - he opted to go to college.  This decision would later pay off when he was drafted in the 1st round by the Indians three years later.

Bradley has always had good relationships with his coaches and he’s always been a team player.  That is a reason why he is currently ranked as the Indians top prospect by several publications.  But he has had to pay his dues in the minors.

According to Bradley’s mother, Cathy, “he enjoyed his time there” and in both Mahoning Valley and Lynchburg “he lived with a really nice host family.”

During his time in Class A, Bradley was immediately able to show off his speed as he had a combined 56 stolen bases at that level. Zimmer’s batting average did, however, drop off a little bit in Double-A, which is something that he sometimes gets criticized for.  However, if you look at his on-base base percentage from last season you’ll see that he has a knack for getting on base, and when he does he moves from first to third extremely well. When Bradley is playing at full health he should be able to produce at a high level in the MLB.

I followed Bradley recently while he was playing in the Arizona Fall League and noticed an increase in power from years past.  Apparently this was not an accident.  Zimmer told me that lately “he’s been working on driving the ball to all sides of the field.”

As a result, he won the AFL Bowman Hitting Challenge this past October.  Then in November, he was named to the MLB Pipeline All-AFL Team and was chosen as one of  Baseball America’s 2016 Arizona Fall League’s Top 20 Prospects as well.

Since the AFL, Bradley has been taking it easy and spending time with his family in San Diego.  This Spring he will be in Major League camp with the Indians and, if all goes well, he could get the call from them midseason, or earlier.

One thing that stood out while we spoke on the phone was his loyalty to the Tribe.  He told me that he is “very happy with the Indians organization” and that he wants to play his entire career with Cleveland.  I’m sure the feeling is mutual.  Rumor has it that his name was mentioned a few times during trade negotiations with the Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal; however, the Indians were insistent on holding onto him.

After speaking with Bradley, I get the impression that he is “aggressive”, a word that he has used in past interviews to describe his style of play.  He’s eager to play in the Major Leagues and excel at that level.

What impressed me the most was his willingness to do an interview even though he was sick as a dog.  He was constantly sniffling and sneezing the entire time we talked.  Halfway through the interview I started to feel guilty and asked him if he wanted to postpone.  He refused and gave me a good chunk of his time.

In a day and age where team loyalty has become more and more rare in the MLB, Bradley epitomizes the concept of a team player.  To this day he still keeps in contact with friends and teammates that he has known since childhood.  I believe the Indians have made a great investment in a great person.

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