Bradley Zimmer easily passes the initial eye test -- he stands 6-foot-4, 185 pounds, the ball is loud off his bat and he runs extremely well. However, the strikeout numbers show the one glaring hole in his game. In his age-23 season, Zimmer fanned a total of 171 times, with 56 strikeouts coming in 150 plate appearances with the Indians' top minor league affiliate (37.3 percent K%). He helped himself offset some of that swing-and-miss with a 14 percent walk rate, but that strikeout total is still hard to stomach given the total absence of power at Triple-A. Contact has always been a big problem for Zimmer, and it's unreasonable to expect much immediate growth in that department. Thus, a batting average in the low-.200s during his initial run in the majors is possible (if not likely), and that puts a hard ceiling on his short-term upside. He should at least debut this season.
Zimmer went 2-for-4 with a triple, a walk, a stolen base and a run scored in Thursday's Opening Day game for Triple-A Columbus. Coming off a great spring training with the big-league club, the top prospect filled the stat sheet against the Reds' Triple-A Louisville affiliate. Zimmer is an unbelievable talent who will likely ascend into the Tribe's lineup at some point during 2017. The road to MLB will shorten if the outfielder can demonstrate improved plate discipline early in the minor-league campaign.
Zimmer was reassigned to the Indians' minor league camp Sunday. Zimmer certainly looked the part of top prospect during spring training, batting .358 with three homers and 14 RBI in 53 at-bats. There remains some concern about whether he'll make enough contact against major-league pitching for his power to consistently show up, but Zimmer should at least get his first taste of the big leagues at some point in 2017. He's expected to open the campaign at Triple-A Columbus.
Zimmer went 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI, and two runs against the Giants in Friday's exhibition game. In the top of the fourth inning, the highly touted prospect lined an RBI double off Giants ace Madison Bumgarner. Zimmer then showed his speed by scoring from second when the next batter hit a single to left. "He played a good game," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Zimmer. "He hit the ball, he used the whole field. He's strong enough to get it over guys' heads, and his speed on the bases, first to home, is probably as good as anybody. He can fly. His strides around the bases are beautiful." The 24-year-old outfielder has done everything in his power this spring to prove he's ready. Zimmer is 10-for-27 with two home runs, three doubles, eight RBI and nine runs in 12 Cactus League games. His 1.137 OPS is better than any of the 30 players with at least 26 at-bats this spring.
Zimmer has adjusted his swing mechanics to improve his bat path through the zone, Jordan Bastian of MLB.com reports. Zimmer's adjustment reflects change in approach that many of today's hitters are employing. As opposed to the more traditional swing, which emphasizes a hitter using his hands to pull the bat on a downward angle, Zimmer has begun focusing more on using his lower half to generate power. The latter approach leads to the back shoulder dropping a bit earlier while the bat head gets in the zone quicker and remains there longer. Either approach can be employed successfully (see Mookie Betts vs. Josh Donaldson, respectively), but Zimmer appears to have found the best stroke for his frame. The 24-year-old outfielder is 5-for-16 this spring with two home runs and seven RBI. He'll start the year in the minors, but it shouldn't be much longer before Zimmer is a mainstay on the big league roster.
Zimmer went 2-for-3 with a walk, three-run homer and five RBI in the Saturday's Cactus League opener against the Reds. Much to the delight of the organization and Indians' fans everywhere, Zimmer had an explosive performance in the spring opener. The top prospect hit a towering blast to the opposite side in left-center field on a low and away breaking ball from righty Jackson Stephens, a 2016 Southern League All-Star. Zimmer's impressively smooth swing displayed opposite-field power that certainly matches major league talent. He's slated to begin the year in the minors and make his MLB debut later in the season, but "later" may turn in to "sooner" with more spring performances like Saturday's.