Columbus Dispatch

2017 IBI Top 75 Prospects: #1 Bradley Zimmer

The 2017 countdown concludes with a player who was at the top of this listing last year and for good reason with the wide range of tools he possesses, his outstanding mental approach to the game and his potential to be an impact level player in Cleveland in the near future...

1. Bradley Zimmer – Outfielder

Born: 11/27/1992 – Height: 6’5” – Weight: 220 – Bats: Left – Throws: Right

Facts & Info: Zimmer was selected by the Indians in the 1st round of the 2014 Draft out of the University of San Francisco and signed for $1.9 million. He was a two-time All-West Coast Conference member, was a 2014 preseason All-American selection by Louisville Slugger, Baseball America and Perfect Game USA and was one of 30 finalists for the 2014 Golden Spikes Award. He has bloodlines to professional baseball as his brother Kyle is a pitcher in the Royals system after being taken by them in the 1st round of the 2012 Draft. He also took part in the 2015 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game. Last season he finished 2nd in the organization in stolen bases (38) and ranked 4th in the Eastern League even though he spent the last six weeks of the season in Triple-A.

Offense: Zimmer is an exciting and explosive offensive player because of his great power and speed combination and is someone who can do it all with the presence of a deep toolset. He is a very patient hitter with some good bat-to-ball ability and though he is very aggressive with his swing he still projects to have a plus hitting tool thanks to a simple setup and a mechanically sound line drive swing that is smooth from start to finish. He has a slightly open stance in his pre-pitch setup and as the pitcher goes into his motion he has a quick load where he closes his right shoulder and takes a short step forward with his right foot while quickly bringing his hands through the zone. His bat stays in the zone a long time which allows him a better chance for contact and he has loose hands which allow him to stay inside the baseball better and make consistent, hard contact to all fields. He is someone who has moved quickly through the minors because he is very polished and has an advanced, mature approach. He does a good job of sticking to his approach, shows some good pitch recognition skills, displays a willingness to work to the off gap and has the discipline to work counts and wait for a pitch he can drive. He also has some very long arms and some very good bat speed that when he is able to get full extension he shows some very good raw power and can hit the ball as far as anyone. When he barrels them up balls just jump off his bat and he shows some big power pull side but also can drive it out well to the opposite field as well. He uses his size, long arms and legs well to create some natural leverage and has so much whip in his hands and so much fast twitch that the power is well above average. He has the frame with some broad shoulders, long legs and wiry build that should allow him to add another 10-20 pounds of muscle which should benefit him in the power department down the road. The added strength and some refinement to his swing are all he is missing to be a more consistent prolific power hitter and carry over the plus power to the Major League level.

Defense: Defensively, Zimmer is fundamentally sound with above average arm strength and accuracy. His long stride, good instincts and plus speed help him cover a lot of ground in the outfield. He shows some good first step quickness, gets good reads off the bat and takes good routes to balls which all allow him to really cover a lot of ground and range well to balls in the gaps. Going into the draft there were concerns in the scouting community whether he could stay in center field, but the Indians have always been confident since the day they drafted him that he can be a Major League center fielder. While the Indians plan to continue developing him as a center fielder, he also has the arm and athleticism to be a good right fielder and may end up a better fit for him at the Major League level – especially considering some of the center field prospects coming up with him that are very good defensively.

Speed & Intangibles: Zimmer shines on the bases with his long stride and plus speed that gets him from base to base with ease, and he brings a lot of intelligence and aggression as a runner where he always looks to take the extra base. When he gets moving and hits a ball in the gap or he is on first when a player finds the gap, it is a lot of fun watching him go from first to third or home. His mental mindset and makeup are off the charts good as he really shows a lot of confidence and trust in who he is and what he can do, controls his emotions very well and shows an ability to really slow the game down. He has a calmness to him where he is not rattled by anything and has a short memory where he doesn’t allow a poor at bat or defensive miscue to get in his head and impact his play. He’s the consummate worker who has an endless desire to get better and shows a willingness to be coached and is open to all feedback. He is very grounded and is not a flashy player who looks for attention, and is someone who has some quiet leadership qualities and always has a team-first mentality to the game.

Focus: Zimmer’s upside is not just tied to refining his approach but also with the improvements he makes with a body that still has a lot of room for growth the next few years. His power is still developing as he is learning to tap into it more consistently, so right now it is all about continuing to add more strength to his frame and fine tuning his swing so he can get a little more loft and backspin on the ball. One of the main concerns is his plate discipline and is something the Indians have been working with him to stay within himself a little more and to be more patient for a good pitch to hit by staying within the zone. While he drew a career-high 77 free passes during the regular season last year, he also fanned 171 times which was also a high-water mark for him as a professional thus-far. The hope is that the high strikeout totals last season will end up being an outlier as he can figure out how to cut down on them while still keeping up the high walk rate. The Indians also believe that opposing pitchers really pitched him tough all season as they really worked the ball in on his hands and didn’t give him many opportunities to extend his arms and drive balls. As a result, he was tied up a lot and it resulted in some swing and miss and weak contact. Pitchers will probably continue that approach against him this season, so they would like to see him make an adjustment to that by working to be a little more on time with his swing and stay inside the ball and work through it. At times he can get started a little bit late and is late on the fastball, so the belief is that as long as he's ready and on time into his launch position that he will see pitches better and make more consistent, hard contact and cut down on the strikeouts a little. The Indians would also like to see him work a little more to the off gap by working more to the middle of the field and less on pulling balls. By staying on balls longer, not pulling off them and letting pitches get deeper he should be able to drive a lot more balls to the left-center gap. The Indians have challenged him to impact a little more as a baserunner by getting better reads off the bat, and would like to see him read balls off the bat a little better defensively as well.

Future: Zimmer had a solid season overall last season which would have qualified as very good if he were not a top prospect where expectations are often unfair, but because of his inconsistency, low batting average and high strikeout rate the general consensus is that it was a down year for him. However, that’s a bit of an over-generalization as he showed a career best walk rate last season (13.8 BB%) which was up significantly from his first two pro seasons, and though his strikeout rate (30.7 K%) was up from previous years, his isolated power percentage at Akron was very good (.218). He had some initial struggles to the Triple-A level which are concerning as he only put up a .063 ISO and a high 37.3 K%, but the belief is that his late season struggles were more him needing to make an adjustment to the higher level and settling in where he should show his true offensive capabilities this season at Columbus. He also proved to be healthy and managed to play the entire season last year and erased any concerns about the hairline fracture in his foot that impacted his play the last two months of the 2015 season and eventually required offseason surgery. He is on the fast track to the big leagues and is very close to being deemed Major League ready, and is no doubt an option to help solidify either center field or right field in Cleveland this season and beyond for the Indians. With his athleticism, speed, defense and power you have a player who has the potential to impact the game in many different ways and could be a very good player for a long time. He will open the season with a return to Columbus to finish off his development and should be someone that is in the mix to be called to Cleveland any time after the first month of the season.

Ranking History: #1 (2016), #2 (2015)

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