Will Bradley Zimmer Get a Chance to Make an Impact for the Indians in 2020?
Sometimes, a person makes such a strong first impression that is resonates for a long time, even after there is a whole bunch of evidence to the contrary.
There are actors who make a great screen debut, and then never make a movie as good again. Yet, they are still famous, and still keep getting cast in films. You are insert a name here.
For a lot of Cleveland baseball fans, that's how they view Indians' outfielder Bradley Zimmer.
But at 27 years old, he's at a career crossroad, and this shortened season isn't likely to provide a lot of help for him.
Zimmer came up in May 2017 when with the defending AL champs struggling a bit at 20-17.
Terry Francona was starting to use Lonnie Chisenhall is centerfield, while rightfield was a combination of Abraham Almonte and David Robertson.
And playing Chisenhall in CF was definitely a compromise to the defense.
Zimmer started off very well after being called up on May 16th. Heading into the all star break, the rookie left-handed hitter was batting .285 with 5 HR, 25 RBI and had a 790 OPS.
He did strikeout 43 times in 165 plate appearances, a not great, but manageable 26% rate.
Since that time, Zimmer has batted .199 with 5 HR and 23 RBI in 267 at bats, including stints in 2018 (34 games) and 2019 (9 games), mostly due to injuries.
And in those 295 plate appearances, he fanned 107 times, a 36% rate. For a comparison, last year's major league leader in striking out, Eugenio Suarez of Cincinnati, struck out 189 times in 662 plate appearances, a rate of 28.5%.
Oh, by the way, Suarez also hit 49 HR and knocked in 103 runs with a .271 batting average. The point is a player can strikeout a lot if he is productive when he makes contact.
Zimmer's walk rate, while never good, has also dropped to 6.1% in '18.
Again, a big part of Zimmer's issue has been injuries. He suffered rib and chest injuries crashing into the wall at Yankee Stadium in 2018, and then hurt his shoulder swinging a bat just a week after being sent to AAA during that season.
The latter injury involved surgery and a lengthy rehab process, so much that the former first round pick played in only 15 minor league games in 2019, getting just 50 at bats.
He was called up in September, and went 1-for-13, striking out seven times.
This shortened season isn't doing to help someone who needs to get in the batter's box and face live pitching. It is difficult to see him getting a big opportunity with the major league club, as in the reserve OF category, he is clearly behind Delino DeShields, Greg Allen, and probably Daniel Johnson, although his defensive ability and speed could be a help.
Especially his speed. Zimmer can fly, which makes his lack of contact at the plate more frustrating.
We understand this is an era of launch angle and hitting the ball through defensive shifts, but Zimmer would appear to us to be a guy who should be hitting the ball on the ground and running fast.
To us, that would make him a more productive player. Swinging from the left side, any ball he would hit to the left side of the infield and the defender had to move has a good chance of being a base hit.
We understand that's old school, but it's also better than batting .199.
It has been reported that Zimmer made some changes to his approach last year, and if he did, it's another reason he is hurt by the lack of a minor league season in 2020. He needs reps.
There is no question the injuries have hurt his career, but you have to wonder how long the Indians' front office will hang with the potential of Bradley Zimmer before moving in another direction.
At the very least, Zimmer shouldn't pass up an opportunity to play winter ball if there is a season later in the year.