Friday, March 28, 2014

Prospect Countdown: #1 Kyle Zimmer

1. Kyle Zimmer Right Handed Pitcher

Age: 22
Position: RHP
Height: 6'3"
Weight: 215
B/T: R/R
Acquired: Drafted in the 1st Round of the 2012 Amateur Draft
From: San Francisco, CA

2013 Rank: 2

Landon Adams (2): The closer I look at Kyle Zimmer's 2013 season, the more impressive the numbers become. On the surface, it is easy to be somewhat disappointed in his 4.82 ERA while at High-A Wilmington. However, a closer look yields some inspiring findings. For example, Zimmer ranked first in the league in strikeouts per nine innings for pitchers logging at least 80 innings (11.34). He also ranked first in SIERA at 2.71. 

Upon his promotion to Northwest Arkansas, Zimmer's peripherals actually ticked up. His strikeouts per nine innings jumped to 13. His walk rate fell from 3.11 per nine to 2.41 and groundball percentage was able to stay at nearly 49%. Unlike in Wilmington though, Zimmer's ERA followed the directions of his peripherals and came in at a sterling 1.93.

I wrote at length about the speculation the Royals hopes that Zimmer could serve a similar role to the one that Michael Wacha served for the Cardinals in 2014. You can read that post here. Personally, this sort of forecast seems extremely optimistic. At the same time the Royals do have a front end starter that is near Major League ready. It would be silly to not plan for him as part of the Major League picture. Hopefully, this plays out for the Royals the same way as it did for the Cardinals a year ago.

Paden Bennett (2): Kyle Zimmer is filthy, he is electric, and downright scary sometimes.  Unfortunately him being shut down early last season due to biceps tendinitis was also scary.  Although Zimmer says his arm feels fine it looks the Royals are going to be very careful with him.  The Royals are going to keep him on a 150 inning limit as of now.  I can get on board with this, Zimmer has an phenomenal arm with phenomenal stuff and he is going to be a big part of our future very soon.  

Zimmer dominated in his brief stint in NWA last year.  In just 18.2 innings he gave up 4 runs with 27 ks to just 5 walks.  He is a power pitcher with big strikeout potential using his incredible fastball and nasty slider.  I hope to see this guy start in NWA or Omaha and get called up to help us during our playoff run this season (ideally).

Joe Cox (1): The number one player on our 2014 Top Prospects List is Kyle Zimmer.  Since being drafted 5th overall in the 2012 amateur draft, Zimmer has done nothing but dominate while on the field.  Unfortunately, his 2013 season was cut short as a shoulder injury forced him to be shut down for the rest of the year.  The injury should not affect his status in 2014, and he appears to be recovering without any issue, though any time your prize pitching prospect goes under the knife you have to feel a little uneasy.  

Before the injury Zimmer had just made the move up to AA and had four starts and a 1.93 ERA while striking out 13 K/9.  Prior to this in Carolina, Zimmer had a 4.82 ERA in 18 starts.  This ERA was inflated due to a 59.2 LOB%, as his FIP was just 3.12.   Zimmer has also shown great command limiting his walk totals at each level. 

Zimmer has yet to throw a pitch above AA and is coming off an arm injury, so expectations will have to be tempered somewhat for any major league success he could have this year.  That being said, he has the talent where best case scenario is that Zimmer forces the Royals hand and receives some key starts down the stretch.  Zimmer has the ceiling to be a legit 1-2 pitcher in any rotation, and could be a mainstay in the Royals rotation starting as early as this summer. 

Dan Ware (1): Ranked as my #1 prospect on Royal Revival's Countdown, Zimmer was certainly a topic of discussion during Spring Training.  Unfortunately, it wasn't about him vying for the 5th spot in the rotation.  Last season, he was shut down early due to a biceps tendinitis issue, which during the winter gave him complications, but not to worry, the 22 year old phenom says his arm feels great.  That doesn't mean the Royals were ready to just put him on the mound and have him go 100%.  Although Zimmer was invited to the Big League camp this spring, his stint lasted just a couple weeks before heading to the side fields with the Minors.

Despite the gloomy stats in Wilmington, Zimmer never had issues with his shoulder and always felt confident in his stuff, yet still earned his way to Double-A Northwest Arkansas, where he did nothing but dominate the Texas League, as he held batters to a .162/.240/.279 line.  I had the pleasure, along with fellow writers Landon Adams and Nathan Bramwell, to watch Kyle's Double-A debut in Springdale, and it was a dandy: 6 innings of 3 H, 1 BB, 7 K's, which was rewarded by a standing ovation from the crowd.  Consistently, his fastball sits anywhere from 92-96 mph and can go up to 98 mph when he's feelin' it.  That night, Zimmer was touching 100 mph a few times on the mound.  Let's not forget stadium radar gun's can be slightly misleading and that this was his first start in a Naturals uniform, but let's not forget that he has the ability to rear back and throw straight gas. 

The Royals will be giving Zimmer the 'Jose Fernandez' treatment (minus 20 innings).  During February, the Royals decided to give Kyle a 150-inning limit for 2014, regardless of who he's throwing for.  It's still a toss-up if Zimmer will stay in Arizona to for extended S.T., but the Royals hope for Zimmer to open this season with either NW Arkansas or Omaha.  

I fully support the course of action the Royals are taking with Zimmer.  Kyle is now considered the Royals version of Michael Wacha.  If all goes to plan to start 2014, the Royals would like Zimmer to be in Kansas City by June, giving the Royals an extra push towards a playoff berth. 

Nicholas Ian Allen (--): I like Zimmer a lot. He has tremendous upside and should help the big league club this season. That said, I would have ranked him third or fourth in the prospect rankings behind Ventura, Mondesi and possibly Starling.

I wrote about Zimmer in the Prospects on the Verge series for Grading on the Curve. Read my full observation here.

Total Points: 118

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