Kyle Zimmer will join the Kansas City Royals’ rotation in 2014. It is just an issue of when, not if. The fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft has been impressive at each of his minor league stops thus far, and both the front office and the fans in Kansas City believe he will be a part of a playoff run this summer.
While a 4-8 record and 4.82 ERA in Class-A Wilmington in 2013 was not awe-inspiring, Zimmer earned a promotion to Northwest Arkansas after three impressive July starts. The 6-foot-3, 215-pound right hander went 2-1 with a 2.50 ERA in early July and struck out 30 in just 18 innings. Additionally, batters hit just .185 in the three starts prior to his promotion. The month got even better in the Texas League with 12 shutout innings in his first two starts, including 19 K’s and only three walks.
In two combined stops last season, Zimmer held hitters to a .222/.292/.352 line. Powered by a great fastball that sits at 92-96 mph and can hit up to 100 as well as a very good slider and serviceable curve and change-up, he is a strikeout machine. Zimmer punched out 30.8% of the batters he faced in 2013 and 29.4% thus far as a professional.
The major concern when it comes to Zimmer is his health. He made just four starts in Double-A and did not pitch after August 14 with a bicep issue. He also had bone chips removed from his elbow in 2012 and a persistent groin injury in college. However, the Royals feel these issues stem mainly from his inexperience on the mound. Originally recruited to the University of San Francisco as an infielder, the Royals believe he is still learning how to properly use his body as a pitcher, according to Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star.
Kansas City will be cautious with Zimmer. Once camp breaks, the club hopes he will be able to join Triple-A Omaha or return to Northwest Arkansas, but has not ruled out keeping him in extended Spring Training. Ultimately, he will be held to 150 innings maximum over the course of the summer, and the plan is for him to make his big league debut in July or August.
Coupled with fellow flamethrowing prospect Yordano Ventura, Zimmer gives Royals fans a lot of optimism for the future. Many are even hoping the pair can have a similar impact as Michael Wacha and Carlos Martinez did for the Cardinals on the way to the 2013 World Series.