Kyle Zimmer is a guy I haven’t thought about too much recently…but a couple of days ago checked on his stats after hearing some grumbling that he’s yet another struggling Royals prospect. Zimmer’s a guy I have been a big believer in (as have most fans) since the Royals drafted him, so I needed to dig into his numbers a bit and take a look for myself.
A college pitcher – he came from the University of San Francisco – Zimmer came in a little more seasoned than any of the available high school guys. He signed and hit Rookie ball at age 20, throwing just 10 innings, although I have to say they were 10 dominant innings. A small sample size, yes, but in that time he posted a 0.5 WHIP and 0.9 ERA, allowing 5 hits, 1 earned run, zero walks, and striking out 13. Needless to say…Zimmer wasn’t long for Rookie ball.
Making the leap to A ball didn’t slow him down much. Zimmer threw 29.2 innings and had a 2.43 ERA with 29 strikeouts. No problem, right? This year, he’s thrown 37 innings in High A and has a 4.86 ERA. He’s moved up one level and doubled his ERA? Yikes.
But, is it really that bad? I think not. Most look at that ERA and assume everything else adds up to a poor performance. Comparing his High A versus A performance, though, I think he’s obviously hit a bump…but a pretty small one.
Rather than freak out about a bloated ERA, I recommend looking at his WHIP and K rates. In 2012, Zimmer’s WHIP skyrocketed when he moved up from Rookie to A ball – going from 0.5 all the way up to 1.416 – so what happened there? In 29.2 innings he gave up 34 hits and 8 walks. At that pace, he was allowing 10.3 hits/9 and 2.4 BB/9. Not great.
High A ball has actually seen an improvement on that front. He’s thrown about 8 more innings against stiffer competition and actually allowed 2 less hits, although he’s walked 9 more. Still though, even with the walks, he’s got a 1.324 WHIP this season, which, although leaving plenty of room for improvement, is a significant drop. He’s allowing 7.8 hits/9 (down from 10.3), which is a much better number. He is walking 4.1/9, however, a number that needs to come down. What about the strikeouts though? He’s striking out almost 3 more batters per 9 innings…up to 11.7 from 8.8. That’s the pace he mowed down batters at while in Rookie ball, which tells me the swing and miss stuff is intact.
The trouble this year for Zimmer has come in the form of walks and the long ball. He’s given up 5 so far this year, which puts him at 1.2 HR/9. In A ball that number was 0.3, and if you look at his total stats from 2012 it was at 0.2, which means he’s got to do a better job keeping the ball in the yard, obviously.
Looking through his first 8 starts, Zimmer’s had 3 that jump out at me as particularly stinky. On April 18, he lasted just 3 innings and allowed 5 hits and 4 ER. The next bad start (coming after a strong one) was on April 29. He allowed 6 hits and 5 ER in just 4 innings, also walking 2 and allowing one home run. After another good start and an okay start…he had another rocky outing on May 16 that was eerily similar to the April 29 drubbing – 6 hits, 5 ER, 3 BB, 1 HR.
In these outings, Zimmer has lasted just 11 total innings, while allowing 2 homers, 17 hits, 6 walks, and 14 earned runs. Not good. The walks and homers don’t always mean a bad game though. In his first game of 2013, Zimmer went 5 innings and gave up 2 homers but finished with 8 K’s, and the only hits allowed were the 2 round trippers. Another game saw him walk 4, but thanks to 11 K’s he allowed only 1 run.
All this to say…it’s been a pretty mixed bag for Zimmer this year. To be even briefer, I can sum this up in one word: Inconsistent. Good game, bad game, mediocre game, good game, bad game, and so on…
Some splits (through 8 starts), courtesy of the Blue Rocks web site: Zimmer has performed against both right and left handed batters pretty similarly: 15 hits allowed versus LHB/17 versus RHB, 2 HR versus LHB/3 versus RHB, 9 BB versus LHB/8 versus RHB, and he’s struck them out evenly at 24 each.
He has given up more homers on the road (4 HR on the road, 1 at home), which makes sense as Wilmington probably has the Carolina League’s most pitcher friendly park in that regard.
The one thing I see in these splits that scares me…he’s got a 1.46 ERA with the bases empty, but an 11.68 ERA with runners on base and a whopping 14.73 with runners in scoring position. Reminds me a little of another Royals pitcher who can’t seem to pitch with runners on base…I hesitate to mention his name in this article for fear of cursing Zimmer. But his name rhymes with Marmaduke…um…Schmochaver.
I wouldn’t freak out just yet, though. Zimmer only 21 years old with all of 76.2 professional innings under his belt. Looking at his totals through those innings, Zimmer seems to have the makings of a pretty damn good pitcher (1.252 WHIP, 2.9 BB/9, 10.6 K/9).
When guys have that kind of stuff…you can overlook a bump or two in the road along the way. Let Zimmer work out some kinks (and maybe throw a couple hundred innings)…I have a feeling he’s a prospect who won’t disappoint.
NOTE (update 5/23): According to the Wilmington team site, Zimmer made another start on May 22. It appears to have been a solid outing. Zimmer went 6 innings and gave up 2 earned runs while allowing 6 hits (including a homer), 2 walks and striking out 7. Nice rebound after a really bad start on May 16.