Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Simons came to Detroit from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for right-handed reliever Jason Grilli during the 2008 season. Once with the Tigers, Simons was assigned to the Lakeland Flying Tigers where he a dominating bullpen force for the High-A squad. In 53 innings for the LFT, Zach allowed only 29 hits while walking 30 and striking out 61. In 17 August innings, Simons posted a sparkling 1.59 ERA and 22 strikeouts en route to earning the TigsTown Lakeland Pitcher of the Month award.
The Rockies selected Simons in the second round of the 2005 draft out of Everett Community College. As a first year player, Zach posted a 3.81 ERA and 6-5 record in 15 starts for Tri-City of the Northwest League. The Rockies promoted Simons to the South Atlantic League for the 2006 season, where he struggled mightily while posting a 6.29 ERA and allowing 134 hits in just 111 2/3 innings of work. Sent back to the South Atlantic League for the 2007 season, Simons worked exclusively in relief; whiffing 64 in 70 2/3 innings to back up a 4.46 ERA and 1.43 WHIP.
Simons finally began to show the stuff that made him a second round pick, working consistently at 91-94 with his fastball. There are times when Zach can work consistently at 95-96, though he sacrifices even more command when this is attempted. His fastball has some sink to it which allows him to induce ground balls with some regularity. Zach is not afraid to work inside and his hard fastball can break bats easily.
Backing up his fastball, Zach offers an above-average slider that has nice bite and can be a devastating pitch when he is staying on top of it and not over-throwing the pitch. He has the ability to throw the slider for strikes when he wants to, but he likes to work it out of the zone as a swing and miss pitch. His change-up is a below average pitch, but he is willing to throw it more than in past years. He will need to gain some effectiveness with the pitch to help keep lefties off balance.
Simons is an aggressive pitcher who looks to attack hitters with his fastball and get ahead in the count. He's likely to never be someone that locates well within the zone, but if he can keep his mechanics tight on the mound and remain in control of his body, he will have a better chance at maintaining improved command. Zach has the stuff to be an excellent late inning reliever, though he profiles as more of a setup reliever, than a closer.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Simons hasn't had trouble staying healthy thus far in his career, and despite that he has improved the level of care he gives his right arm. He's handled a starters workload in the past, which bodes well for his ability to be a reliever that is used regularly.
Simons was added to the 40-man roster this off-season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, and the Tigers are optimistic about his future. He will spend some time in big league camp this spring, and there is a very slim chance he could head north with the Tigers if he really impresses Manager Jim Leyland. It is farm more likely that Simons will head to Double-A Erie and work in a set-up role to start the 2009 season, though he could see time in Detroit later this year.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.