Going in, this draft was a bit weird. There was no consensus number one pick, but most figured Stanford pitcher Mark Appel to be the first overall pick by Houston.
Right away, they threw a wrench into that, taking Carlos Correa instead. Then the Twins took Byron Buxton. Then the Mariners took Mike Zunino.
We talked this weekend about who the Royals might take and it seemed destined that they’d take a pitcher, the question was whether it would be a high school or college arm. When Baltimore took Kevin Gausman, it left a decision up to the Royals. Now the question was Appel or someone else?
They took Kyle Zimmer out of San Francisco instead of Appel. The reaction hasn’t been as outraged as one may have expected. Appel ended up with Pittsburgh at the eighth pick.
So what do the Royals have in their prospective new top pitching prospect?
Zimmer is a converted infielder who didn’t pitch full time until college. At 20 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of wear on his arm but scouts really like his stuff. He works a fastball in the mid-90s with movement and sink along with good breaking stuff and a developing changeup. Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com likes his four pitch mix and others note his upside.
The University of San Francisco lists him at 6’4″ and 220 pounds and because he maintains his velocity late into starts, he looks the part of a front line starter. In 13 starts in 2012, he threw 88.1 innings, striking out 104 and walking 17.
That all being said, it’s not a perfect selection. Compared to Appel or Gausman, the two other big name college pitchers, Zimmer doesn’t have the same level of experience so while college pitchers can move through a farm system quickly, he may take longer to rise through. There were reports of lost velocity at the end of the year, and while most chalk that up to a hamstring injury (which shouldn’t be much of an issue), it’s still nothing you want to see from a first round pick.
Most of the reactions to the pick have been positive. Greg Schaum praised his attitude. Robert Ford noted that the Royals had Zimmer at the top of their draft board. Rany Jazayerli suggested that Zimmer wasn’t too far removed from being in Appel’s class. Kevin Goldstein called it a “good pick” after guessing the Royals would pass on Zimmer.
Now it’s up to the Royals to sign Zimmer. Schaum suggested that Zimmer could be less pricey than Gausman would have been and Appel slipped due to his contract demands. The new CBA moved the deadline up into mid-July every year rather than into August as in past years. That means that the Royals can see Zimmer in short season ball this year and gives them the opportunity to start evaluating him sooner.