The IBI Preview Capsules are back for 2017 as Jake Dungan takes an in-depth look at all the players who could impact the Tribe in the upcoming season from the established stars to the prospects on the verge of being called up to the majors to the non-roster invites to spring training.
Bradley Zimmer, OF
Throws: Right -- Bats: Left -- Entering his age-24 season -- Contract: Fourth minor league season
2016 In Review: Zimmer had a bit of an unusual season from an offensive standpoint as he simultaneously showed a knack for getting on base and wreaking havoc on the paths while also struggling a bit with his plate approach and swinging and missing at a high rate. Between Akron and Columbus, the former first round pick batted .250 with 15 homers and 62 RBI's with 38 stolen bases in 52 attempts and career highs in both walks with 77 and strikeouts with 171. Those 77 free passes, helped elevate his on-base percentage to a respectable .365. His aggressiveness at the plate and on the bases was both a beneficial and detrimental to his game as his high strikeout and caught-stealing rates show, but his tools are still undeniable and a certain amount of aggressiveness can help maximize their value. All he needs is to dial in that right amount.
Versus Right-handers: Last season was a bit of an anomaly for Zimmer in that he hit better against right-handers than lefties at .273 and .179, respectively. As a left-handed hitter, that is typically what one would expect, but in his first two seasons the opposite was true. That being said, the top outfield prospect has never really performed poorly against righties hitting .274 in 2014 and .269 in 2015. Additionally, his on-base percentage against right-handers was 31 points higher at .374. At the same time, right-handed pitchers have struck him out more, 238 of his 335 to be exact. The question going into 2017 is will he continue to hit right-handers well or will his splits even out more or even revert back to pre-2016 levels?
Versus Left-handers: Before 2016, the 24-year-old thrived against southpaws, despite being left-handed himself. In the A-ball levels and Double-A in 2014 and 2015, Zimmer batted .386 and .286, respectively with on-base percentages north of .400 and even .500. While his time was limited in 2014 coming out of the draft, the California native feasted on left-handed pitching in 56 plate appearances posting a 1.154 OPS and drawing an equal number of walks to strikeouts with eight apiece. Last season, however, the tables were turned dramatically as Zimmer batted just .179 with a .593 OPS versus lefties. Maybe it has something to do with the advanced competition at the Double-A and Triple-A levels, but for the time being, those splits can be considered an outlier. However, seeing how he performs against left-handed pitchers in the coming season will be interesting as far as identifying his tendencies.
Defense: Where Zimmer fits into the Indians' long-term future will be interesting to watch over the next season or two. Right now, the Tribe, theoretically, has openings at every outfield spot given the uncertainty of All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley's ability to return and man his position every day along with the platoon setups in both right and center field. He was drafted as a center field and has played there primarily throughout his minor league career, but has also seen a fair amount of time in right field. Thanks to his size and lankiness, which affords him the ability to take lengthy strides. That tool obviously helps him on the bases, but also in the outfield as Zimmer can cover a lot of ground, which is a big reason why the organization is intrigued with him as a center fielder. Entering 2017, the door appears to be open for the former first-rounder to have an opportunity to play center regularly and try to make an impact at the big league level. It's just a question of when.
Fantasy Impact: Obviously Zimmer can't have an impact until he gets called up, so one of the big questions fans in Cleveland have heading into 2017 is when will we see Bradley Zimmer? Let's first clarify that this is not the same situation as when All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor was called up in 2015 and the assured inevitability that was involved in the waiting game. Zimmer is close, but there may be some seasoning time still ahead of him in the minor leagues as the Indians may possibly look to see him cut down on the strikeouts as well as develop more of a firm game plan on the base paths. Spring training should be a strong indicator in regards to mapping out his timeline for the season to follow as Zimmer will likely see plenty of time in big league camp. Once he gets called up, however, it will become a question of how far his raw tools can take him and whether they can smooth out the transition to the majors.
Summary: Following his productive, yet somewhat enigmatic 2016, Zimmer went to Arizona to participate in the Fall League and made his presence known winning the AFL Bowman Hitting Challenge before the campaign and earning an All-Star nod batting .257 with four homers and 16 RBI's in 22 games with the Mesa Solar Sox while stealing eight bases in nine attempts and racking up 19 walks against 26 strikeouts. Typically players sent to the Fall League are being groomed for bigger and better things, so one would think the countdown has started for the 24-year-old outfielder. However, will it be in June? Will it be after the All-Star Break? Will fans have to wait all the way until September roster expansion? All are distinct possibilities at this point, but as the old baseball adage goes, if you hit, you play. So Zimmer's fate is very much in his hands.
Check out our other 2017 Preview Capsules here:
- 1B/DH Edwin Encarnacion
- LHP Andrew Miller
- RHP Corey Kluber
- 3B Jose Ramirez
- INF Erik Gonzalez
- RHP Cody Allen
- OF Abraham Almonte
- 2B Jason Kipnis
- RHP Carlos Carrasco