Tigers Prospect Profile #21: Zach Simons

Zach Simons once again shined on the mound in 2010, consistently performing at a high level for the Erie SeaWolves, and then more than holding his own toward the end of the year in Toledo. Will 2011 finally be the year Simons gets his shot?

Zach Simons
Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Height: 6-3
Weight: 180
Born: 5/23/1985
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Background
Simons was originally a second round pick of the Rockies in 2005 out of Everett Community College. He was promptly assigned to the short-season Northwest League where he sported a 3.81 ERA over 15 starts.

Shipped to the South Atlantic League for the 2006 and 2007 seasons, Simons worked as a starter his first summer there, before shifting to relief the second time around. His stuff played up a bit out of the bullpen, and he struck out nearly a batter per inning in 42 appearances.

In 2008 he made just seven relief appearances for Modesto in the Cal League before the Rockies flipped him to Detroit in exchange for Jason Grilli. Switching High-A leagues to the Florida State League, Simons was spectacular in 39 outings for the Flying Tigers posting a 2.36 ERA and striking out over ten batters per nine innings.

Logically, the Tigers promoted him to Double-A for the 2009 season, as he allowed only 39 hits and 21 walks in 51 innings. He again maintained his strikeout rate by fanning nearly one per inning, and he also logged a 2.82 ERA. He also saw limited action at Triple-A Toledo, notching a 2.45 ERA in eleven appearances.

Back in Double-A to start the 2010 season, Simons was spectacular. In 53 1/3 innings, Simons yielded only 36 hits while striking out 54 and finishing with a 2.36 ERA. Similar to 2009, Simons saw limited action Triple-A with a 3.78 ERA.

Scouting Report
Despite his bullpen role, Simons maintains a three to four pitch mix. His best pitch is a low-90s fastball that has solid sink when thrown down in the zone. He has gotten it up to 95 and 96 in the pasts based on some scouts' reports, but he sits in the 92-93 range with better command.

Though not a command specialist, Simons throws strikes regularly and can locate at times. He has improved his control since being drafted and his command has come along as well.

Though he has three additional pitches to choose from, Simons relies primarily on his cutter and breaking ball. His cutter is a firm, upper-80s pitch with solid movement and he can use it to saw off hitters and induce weak contact.

Simons' breaking ball has sharp break similar to most sliders, but he holds it like a spike curve, taking additional velocity off the pitch and giving it swing and miss potential. Some scouts felt that he could lose feel for the breaking ball at times, but most think it shows above-average potential.

A three-pitch mix is more than an enough for a late inning reliever, but Simons also attempts to employ a change-up, though he rarely uses it in game action and most scouts I spoke with for this piece believe he should scrap the pitch and focus on his other offerings.

Simons has excellent composure in the late innings and an aggressive approach that helps him play in the 8th and 9th innings of tight games. Without a slight up-tick in his command, Simons projects more as a setup guy than a closer.

Performance

Level

Team

W-L

ERA

G

GS

SV

SO

BB

IP

AVG

AA

Erie

3-4

2.36

34

0

3

54

21

53.1

.193

AAA

Toledo

0-0

3.78

10

0

0

18

7

16.2

.281


Health Record
Simons' arm has been durable and strong throughout his career. He has demonstrated an ability to work multiple innings and also work back-to-back days without problem. He has worked hard to regain the strength and bulk lost during a bout with cholera after pitching in Venezuela following the 2009 season.

The Future
An invite to big league spring training wasn't in the card for Simons this year, despite having been on the 40-man roster in the past and being nearly big league ready. He will walk into minor league camp with a chance at either of the two upper level rosters. Simons has had two dominating stints at Double-A already, and he should have an inside track on a spot in the Toledo bullpen.

If Simons continues to throw up great performances for a fourth year in a row, he is going to creep closer to a big league opportunity. Though there have been rumblings that some within the organization aren't enamored with Simons, his strong on-field performance is going to earn him a big league look at some point.

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