- Bradley Zimmer is lean, athletic and projectable, just like his older brother Kyle Zimmer, a former USF star righty who was the No. 5 overall pick by the Royals in 2012.
His work ethic is exemplary. And he loves to play the game. He is as tough as woodpecker lips. Bradley credits much of his success in baseball to his father.
His dad allowed Zimmer to play various sports growing up and not getting him burned out playing baseball year-round. Once Bradley developed a love for baseball, his career on the diamond took off.
"My dad was great growing up as a coach and as a role model," Zimmer said. "And giving us the option of playing whatever we wanted to and enjoy our childhood as an athlete back in the glory days thinking you're going to go professional in any sport. I'm glad I stuck with baseball and can't thank him enough for what he did for me."
Bradley's success in the game doesn't surprise his dad.
"It's fun to watch. It is not unexpected to me because he's been a talent, he's been hard-driven -- this is what he loves," Eric Zimmer said. "He luckily found what he gets his attaboys doing. He gets after it and just loves every minute."
The elder Zimmer starred at UC San Diego, so baseball was popular in the Zimmer household. His two sons, Kyle and Bradley, both played various sports ranging from soccer and lacrosse to water polo, but baseball was the sport both fell in love with.
- In 2014, with the University of San Francisco, Zimmer hit .368 with 10 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 31 RBIs in 54 games this season.
He also stole 21 bases, drew 31 walks and scored 42 runs as the only collegiate player in the nation to place in the top 50 in both stolen bases and slugging percentage.
June 2014: Zimmer was the Indians first round pick (#21 overall), out of the University of San Francisco. He signed for $1.9 million with scout Don Lyle.
- July 12, 2015: Zimmer was chosen to represent the Indians at the All-Star Futures Game.
- Zimmer comes from a family of athletes. His mother, Cathy, ran track.
"I'm pretty lucky," said Zimmer. "I get speed from my mom and baseball from my dad."
In 2015, Baseball America rated Zimmer as the 2nd-prospect in the Indians organization. In 2016, he was the #1 prospect in the Tribe farm system. He was back at #2 in the winter before 2017 spring training, behind only catcher Francisco Mejia.
Feb 25, 2017: The Indians already boast a rather potent offense, but reinforcements are on the way nonetheless: outfielder Bradley Zimmer, considered the club's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, could have an impact sooner rather than later. "Sooner" might be "now," judging by the display Zimmer put on in Cleveland's Spring Training opener against the Reds. Zimmer went 2-for-3 with five RBIs, three of them coming on this booming, man-that-looks-like-an-easy-swing dinger to left-center field.
MLB.com's Jordan Bastian caught up with Zimmer after the game to ask about his big day:
"It's awesome. Grandma Cathy, who is 84, is alongside my mom and my dad, my biggest supporter since day one. Having her out here, my mom, I know she was watching at home, and my dad here, it's awesome having that much support. It's great."
And as for his opposite-field power, Zimmer seemed as impressed as the rest of us.
"It's tough to describe," he said. "It's definitely one of the better feelings in life when you connect with the ball like that. I'm not going to lie. I got a pitch out over the plate and stayed on it. That's usually where I get balls pretty well, that's usually where they go." (A Garro - MLB.com - Feb 26, 2017)
Bradley had two baseballs in his possession after his first milestone game in the Major Leagues. One was from the double that he sent bouncing high off the left-field wall for his first career hit in the third inning of a 7-4 loss to the Rays. The other was from the home run he launched in the ninth. That second ball required some bartering. The Indians fan who caught the blast headed home with an autographed bat and baseball.
"Good deal," Zimmer said with a smile.
It was a memorable day for Zimmer, who felt much more relaxed after being overwhelmed with nerves for his big league debut the previous night. When Zimmer slowed into second base after his RBI double off Alex Cobb, a calm washed over him. Getting that first one out of the way slowed the game down some.
Zimmer scanned the Progressive Field stands for his parents and grandmother, but could not spot them. He looked again after he crossed home plate following his homer off Alex Colome. Once again, he was unable to find them. (When Zimmer does see his family, he will have a pair of baseballs to present as gifts -- one for his mom and one for his dad. Who gets the home run? "I feel like I have to give the homer to my mom," Zimmer said.)
Before his first Major League game, Francisco Lindor chatted with Zimmer and joked that the rookie should be careful not to trip over first base like he had done on his first career hit two years ago.
"He also said, 'Don't sprint around the bases if you hit a home run,'" Zimmer said with a laugh. "I think at one point I was running pretty hard, but then I slowed down as I got to second. It was a lot of fun." (Bastian - mlb.com - 5/17/17)
In May 2017, Eric Zimmer was among the family in the stands at Progressive Field for his son Bradley's big league debut for the Indians. That sounds normal enough, except when considering that the elder Zimmer traveled more than 4,500 miles in roughly 48 hours to make it happen.
Bradley has grown used to his dad's dropping everything to be there for his games, but he does not take it for granted. As an anesthesiologist based in San Diego, Eric has a busy schedule, but he will barter with his coworkers to be there for his son.
"Where else would I rather be?" said Eric Zimmer, while watching batting practice during the Indians' series at Coors Field. "I have some understanding, helpful partners. I'll usually trade away a lot: 'If you can do me this favor, I owe you these three. I'll work your holiday, I'll work your weekend, if you can cover this day.' I was telling Bradley earlier, it's getting harder."
When Bradley -- the younger of Eric Zimmer's two sons (Kyle Zimmer is a pitcher in the Royals' organization) -- learned on May 15 that he was getting promoted to Cleveland, he immediately called his dad. Eric had just returned home from Atlanta, where he was watching Bradley take on the Gwinnett Braves with Triple-A Columbus. Eric had already agreed to be on higher call at his practice for May 15-17, but it was time to make some deals again.
"He's shown up at a minute's notice numerous times," Bradley said. "I'm sure there's plenty of guys in the Major Leagues that maybe don't have that luxury -- maybe they lost their dad, or he hasn't been in their life. That's just life sometimes. I'm very fortunate to have him in my life. He's done so much for me."
For example, back in 2013, Zimmer was given a chance as a sophomore at University of San Francisco to compete for a spot on the Team USA Collegiate National Team. The roster already included Kyle Schwarber, Alex Bregman, Brandon Finnegan, Trea Turner, Michael Conforto and Carlos Rodon, among others. When the final roster was announced in late June, Zimmer had won a spot on the team. A few days later, Team USA would be in Matsuyama, Japan.
"He was like, 'See you there,'" Bradley said. "At a minute's notice, my old man is on a 15-hour flight, and he's in Japan watching me play. It goes to show how much he cares, and how much he's done for me throughout my whole career and just my life." (Bastian - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
Bradley's father, Eric Zimmer, played collegiate baseball at UC San Diego, and Kyle and Bradley's mom was a track star for San Diego State. The fact that their boys became professional athletes hardly seems a surprise. When they were young, Kyle and Bradley -- born 14 months apart -- competed in anything they could. Eric helped stoke the brotherly fire, while encouraging them to take part in multiple sports.
That background paved a path for Kyle Zimmer to be taken in the first round of the MLB Draft in 2012 by the Royals, and for Bradley to follow suit with the Indians in the first round in 2014. Bradley reached the big leagues first.
Kyle and Bradley hope to eventually face off on the big league stage. They know their dad will find a way to be there.
"It'll be surreal," Eric Zimmer said with a smile. "I'm going to be rooting for great pitches, and great swings." (Bastian - mlb.com - 6/15/17)
In 2014, Bradley's first Spring Training as a Minor Leaguer, he got a chance to play on the big league side. Reds pitcher Michael Lorenzen greeted Zimmer with an inadvertent 97-mph fastball to the ribs.
After the game, trainers understandably wanted to check Zimmer for any damage, so they had Zimmer remove his shirt to examine him.
"And there was no mark or anything," Zimmer said. "So immediately right after that, [Indians outfielder Michael Brantley] was like, 'This guy's a machine!'
"It just kind of evolved from there, and it just stuck, so everyone here pretty much calls me that."
"Machine" will be plastered on the back of Zimmer's jersey for MLB's first Players Weekend Aug. 25-27, 2017, giving fans a chance to learn and adopt the rookie's moniker as well. For some teammates, the "Machine" nickname is a reflection of Zimmer's 6-foot-5, 220-pound frame, which pitcher Mike Clevinger estimated is about two percent body fat.
"He's just built like a machine," Clevinger said, adding Zimmer's production is a factor to the nickname as well. "Especially his running through walls and just standing right back up, that definitely plays into it as well."
For others, it's the array of skills that Zimmer has displayed in his first year in the Majors. "He's kind of like your true five-tool guy," catcher Yan Gomes said. "You see him hit, that guy's got some unreal pop. You see him run, he's to me one of the fastest guys I've seen run. It's a beauty seeing him take off. And then you see him throw -- I mean that guy I think he was clocked at 100 something or whatever it was. So he's definitely that body guy that you built when you're building a ballplayer," Gomes said. (Mount - mlb.com - 8/16/17)
Jan 4, 2018: As the story goes, Bradley Zimmer was in the Indians' training room after having worn a fastball to the ribs earlier in the afternoon in a Cactus League game three springs ago (2015). When the medical staff examined his side, there was no bruising or mark to be found. "This guy's a machine," Michael Brantley said nearby.
That is why "Machine" wound up on the back of Zimmer's jersey for Players Weekend in the 2017 season, which was the rookie's first taste of the Major League stage. The center fielder lived up to the moniker, too. Zimmer flashed an exceptionally powerful arm from the outfield, chased down drives to the gap with jaw-dropping dives, raced around the bases at elite speeds and had baseballs rocket off his bat at incredible rates.
Zimmer, who is listed at 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, looks like a prototype for Statcast™ metrics. Thanks to the tracking system that now exists in every Major League stadium, the eye test can be supported with data. It is easy to be impressed by Zimmer's baseball tools, but now there are numbers to illustrate where he stands against some of the game's top athletes.
"He showed he can be a really dynamic Major League player who's capable of impacting the game in a variety of ways," said Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti. "He was really consistent defensively and on the bases throughout the course of his time in the Major Leagues."
Here is some of what Statcast -- or maybe it should be called "Bradcast" -- captured from Zimmer in 2017.
Sprint Speed - A new metric unveiled with Statcast™ in 2017 was Sprint Speed, which measures how many feet per second a player runs in his fastest one-second window. Zimmer was not only the fastest player on the Indians, but one of the fastest players in the Major Leagues. Here were the 2017 Sprint Speed leaders:
1. Byron Buxton: 30.2 ft/s2. Billy Hamilton: 30.13. Zimmer: 29.9
Zimmer, who was only up with Cleveland for 101 games, recorded the fastest home-to-first (3.7 seconds) and home-to-third (11.5 seconds) times for the team last season. He stole 18 bases in 19 attempts, collected 13 infield singles, and had four bunt hits. In the outfield, Zimmer's top Sprint Speed was clocked at 32.5 feet per second. (J Bastian - MLB.com - Jan 4, 2018)
Every once in a while, Zimmer can turn a routine grounder into a spectacle. Consider what happened in the seventh inning against the Royals on Aug. 26. The rookie chopped a pitch to Eric Hosmer, who gloved the ball while Zimmer was still at the edge of the dirt circle around home plate. Hosmer did not have far to go to step on the bag, but Zimmer hustled up the line (30.4 Sprint Speed) and slid in safely in the nick of time.
"He's so big compared to what we think of as the speedy guys," Indians relief ace Andrew Miller said. "Whether that's just getting from home to first, beating out a ground ball, running in a gap, stealing a base, it's a little bit confusing to the eyes. You're used to seeing the little guys that are the speedsters. He can compete with anybody, it seems like."
Exit Velocity - Tape-measure shots were not a part of Zimmer's package in his rookie year, when he cleared the fence eight times. It was the velocity at which baseballs left his bat that jumped out.
On July 25, Zimmer unloaded on a pitch from Jesse Chavez of the Angels, sending it out to center at Progressive Field at 112.2 mph. That blast -- his first career grand slam -- marked the hardest-hit regular-season home run by an Indians batter since Statcast™ began in 2015. It narrowly edged out a 112.1-mph shot from Francisco Lindor on Sept. 30, 2016.
Zimmer also boasts the hardest-hit ball of any kind for a Cleveland hitter since Statcast™ launched (regular season or playoffs). That was a 114.6-mph double off Sonny Gray on May 30 last summer. Zimmer has actually recorded three of the 10-fastest exit velocities in the past three seasons for an Indians batter. Last year, he also led the Tribe (min. 150 batted ball events) with 30.5 percent (62 of 203) of recorded balls in play having an exit velocity of at least 100 mph.
Arm Strength - For nearly three months last season, Zimmer owned the hardest thrown outfield assist in the Majors. Brett Phillips of the Brewers stole the crown with a 104-mph assist on Sept. 13, pushing Zimmer down a peg. Those two stood tall when it came to powerful throws among outfielders.
Zimmer's 101.5-mph assist on June 18 -- a low laser that skipped over the mound and arrived in catcher Roberto Perez's glove in time to halt Max Kepler from scoring -- was actually his second-hardest recorded throw of the year. He also had a throw clocked at 102.5 mph on July 31.
Statcast registered 18 throws from outfielders at 100 mph or faster last season. Zimmer led the way with five of those throws, with Phillips coming in second with four. Overall in 2017, Zimmer had three of the seven-hardest throws, 6 in the Top 20, and 8 in the Top 25. (J Bastian - MLB.com - Jan 4, 2018)
|Birth City:||La Jolla, VA|
|Draft:||Indians #1 - 2014 - Out of Univ. of San Francisco (CA)|
Zimmer needs to gain some strength in order to unlock his lefthanded power potential. His power will come. He is a gap guy now, with lots of doubles, but he is learning to turn on the ball and should hit 15-20 dingers per year in the majors now that he is tapping into his natural loft, bat speed and strength.
He already shows good pull power, hitting them out to left field. Mostly, he has an all-fields approach from a smooth lefty stroke and advanced understanding of the strike zone. (Spring, 2017)
Bradley gets 55 grades across the board on all his tools: batting, power, speed, arm -- oh, but he gets a 60 on the 20-80 scouting scale for his defense in the outfield. So he can impact the game in many areas.
- In 2014, Zimmer ranked as one of the better athletes among college hitters, with a lean 6-foot-5, 205 pound frame and broad shoulders. He has a flat bat path. However, Bradley needs to turn on a ball every once in a while and pull it to right field.
He controls the strike zone well. So he can hit for average. He has a calm approach at the plate and outstanding bat-to-ball skills. He is extremely consistent with putting in a quality at-bat. often driving the ball to the opposite field and staying within "his" hitting zone. He's hitting lefty pitchers better.
Bradley makes quality adjustments, gets himself into quality counts. He works deep counts and accepts a lot of walks. And he gets his hits.
Zimmer has the leverage in his swing to drive balls a long way when he gets his arms extended.
"I stick to the approach that I've been working with all year," Zimmer told MiLB.com in 2015. "I'm just being patient, because they didn't really want to give me anything to hit right away. I worked the count and ended up getting a good pitch to drive late in the count."
In 2015, those who saw Zimmer at Akron thought he might have been flustered by pitcher-friendly Canal Park. As a result, he might have overcompensated in his swing, which led to bad habits and over-aggression and, in turn, ugly numbers.
Bradley should become a top-of-the-lineup hitter with speed to beat out a bunt or an infield hit, impressive on-base skills and hit the ball out of the park occasionally.
Zimmer credits his early success in 2017 to changing his setup and swing path, which he did after the 2016 season.
Zimmer narrowed the setup of his feet and opened his stance slightly. These tweaks allowed for an improved bat path that stayed in the hitting zone longer.
He does most of his damage versus righthanders and offers little power in same-side matchups.
Bradley has the plus arm strength to profile as a right fielder. He covers a lot of ground in right. He can do a very good job in center field, earning a 60 grade for his defense there.
Zimmer displays good instincts for the outfield. He has become a polished center fielder. His long strides that belie his big 6-feet-4 body. (June, 2015)
What stood out in 2015 to Indian's manager Terry Francona is Zimmer's growth in center field, particularly in his pre-pitch positioning and preparation.
"It's just the little things you need to do better to become a good Major League player," Francona said. "Like his defensive set up. He just for whatever reason -- he was at the University of San Francisco, not exactly a baseball power house -- so he set up different every time, if he did.
"Now, all of a sudden, he's got so much repetition. Minor League field coordinator Tom Wiedenbauer stayed on him. Now, he's getting more consistent in that, so he's going to be a better outfielder." (Fagerstrom - mlb.com - 8/12/15)
Bradley lopes across the outfield using long, fluid strides. He now gets a good jump, has solid reads and routes to the ball, and that 55 arm, slightly above-average on the 20-80 scout scale.
The Indians are as excited about Zimmer’s defense as they are his bat.
“We view him as a center fielder,” Tribe manager Terry Francona said of Zimmer, who also played right field in the minors. “He’s an above-average defender,” the skipper said in June 2017. “He can run down balls out there, and as he gets to know the league, he’ll get even better.”
Zimmer is an above-average runner. He has a lanky, superbly athletic frame and catches eyes with his long strides on the bases and in center field.
Bradley is an aggressive baserunner. And he makes good decisions on the paths. He is really fast underway. And his keen instincts allow his 55 speed to play up.
- Zimmer should steal 20 or 25 bases per year in the Show. He just has a great feel for it, and his baseball instincts are impressive.
In 2017, MLB introduced a new Statcast metric, "Sprint Speed," which measures runner foot speed in feet per second (in their fastest one-second window). We report the average of a player's qualified maximum effort runs, so we end up with a number where 27 feet per second is league average, and the slowest catchers and designated hitters are down around 23 feet per second.
When it was introduced, it was expected for Billy Hamilton and Byron Buxton to be at the top. And they are, tied at 30 feet per second. What we didn't expect was that soon after, a rookie listed at 6-foot-5, 220 pounds would jump onto the leaderboard in third place. Right now, among the 391 qualified players, only baseball's two most obvious speed demons top Zimmer.
Sprint Speed leaders in 2017: 30 feet per second -- Hamilton, Byron Buxton. Running at 29.7 feet per second -- Bradley Zimmer. Running at 29.6 feet per second -- Dee Gordon and Raimel Tapia.
MLB debuted a new baserunning statistic in 2017 -- Sprint Speed. It revealed the fastest runners in the majors.
To no one's surprise, Billy Hamilton was first with an average of 30.1 feet per second.
The others on the list: Byron Buxton at 299 feet per second (which is why he was nabbed just one time in 30 stolen base attempts in 2017. Then came Bradley Zimmer (29.8), Franchy Cordero (29.6) and Keon Broxton (29.4).
August 2014: Zimmer missed a week and a half in early August with a concussion.
September 2015: Bradley played the final two months of the season with a hairline fracture in his right foot. It wasn’t discovered until after the season.
- May 12-June 1, 2018: Zimmer was on the DL with left rib contusion.