Bradley Zimmer: Heir Apparent To Michael Bourn In Cleveland?
In over 1,000 plate appearances, Indians centerfielder Michael Bourn has a .675 OPS and 33 stolen bases — disappointing considering his 12 million per year price tag. And with two years left on the deal (three if the vesting option kicks in), Cleveland is stockpiling centerfielders in the hope of promoting from within. In 2012, Tyler Naquin was drafted 15th overall. Clint Frazier went 5th in 2013. Bradley Zimmer fell to the 21st pick before being scooped last June. With a glut of top outfield prospects in the minor leagues, can Zimmer push to the front of the line and establish himself as the Indians centerfielder of the future?
Zimmer was the highlight of a summer trip to upstate New York. Staying just 20-minutes away from the Auburn Doubledays home ballpark, the opportunity to scout a recent top pick rounding into form was an unexpected break. In a two game look, Bradley Zimmer presented as a player deserving of a top-10 pick due to an all-around skill set buoyed by 70 speed. The numbers backed this up as his .302/.400/.492 triple slash line with 12 stolen bases was strong enough to earn a High-A assignment entering 2015.
Listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, Bradley Zimmer has a long frame packed with lean muscle. His wide shoulders point to the ability to add an additional 10-15 pounds at full physical development, but more would have diminishing returns defensively. Zimmer’s athleticism stands out against his peers, helping the centerfielder project as a five tool talent at the MLB level.
On offense, Bradley Zimmer is patient at the plate and consistently barreled pitches — especially to the opposite field. After watching him do this in multiple plate appearances, Zimmer surprised with a loud double. In all, five hits in two games was enough to identify a talented hitter with gap power and the ability to hit for a high average. He may never hit more than 12-15 home runs at the MLB level with a flat plane swing, but Bradley Zimmer will contribute more than his share of doubles and triples.
Additionally, it’s important to touch on the fact Zimmer’s performance came against a pair of legitimate pitching prospects in the Nationals organization. Jefry Rodriguez received a substantial international free agent signing bonus and Reynaldo Lopez will be the fast riser in the organization this winter.
In centerfield, Zimmer displayed the ability to cover gap-to-gap using his natural athleticism and strong baseball instincts. His remaining up the middle is a guarantee, unlike other outfield prospects in the organization. Zimmer’s arm strength is average, but his ability to charge baseballs and cut down the distance of throws will help it play up.
On the bases, Bradley Zimmer has the ability to steal 25-plus bases in a MLB season. Underway, his long strides are gazelle-like and allow him to cover ground quickly. On a hard ground ball back to the pitcher, Zimmer ran a 3.96 to first base, but the stopwatch was started a touch late.
Zimmer ranking in the top-10 of prospects scouted in 2014 is no accident. In scouting lesser prospects who were drafted higher in their respective draft classes, the centerfielder falling to the Indians at 21 is a coup. Yes, pitching dominated the first 20 picks of the 2014 draft, but the left-handed hitter is a special talent who’ll move through the system quickly. If betting on one of Naquin, Frazier or Zimmer to become Cleveland’s centerfielder of the future, the money needs to be on the University of San Francisco product.
Owning Bradley Zimmer
Chances are Zimmer has flown under the radar in dynasty leagues this summer and will be available in spring drafts. Don’t sleep on the five tool talent. In a draft dominated by arms, the outfielder is a viable option for an owner smart enough to take position players early while waiting for arms to fall later on. Even though he was drafted 21st overall, I’ll be looking to move up into the top-15 picks of the Reality Fantasy Baseball first year player draft to grab Zimmer. Given the value of bats over arms in 5×5 leagues, Bradley Zimmer can develop into a more valuable fantasy baseball asset than brother Kyle Zimmer.
7 Oct 2014 / Mike Newman /
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