Last year, several young pitchers made a difference in their team’s postseason hopes. Pitchers such as Sonny Gray and Michael Wacha emerged for the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals respectively, going from top prospects to a major reason as to why their teams made the playoffs. Not only did these players perform down the stretch, but they also pitched well in the postseason.
As it happens, the Royals happen to have a top prospect who may well be able to replicate the type of magic that Gray and Wacha provided for their teams. While the focus for the fifth starter spot, and future role in the rotation, is between Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura, Kyle Zimmer was also invited to the Royals major league camp. Although Zimmer is practically guaranteed to start the season in the minors, his time with in the Royals major league camp could end up being a valuable learning experience.
Like Gray and Wacha, Zimmer is a top prospect. Gray and Wacha had started the previous season in AA before moving up to AAA the following year. Zimmer only received four starts for the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals last year, and may end up starting the season in AA once again. However, if he pitches well, a promotion to Omaha may end up coming along quickly.
Although the raw numbers last season may not indicate the type of pitcher that Kyle Zimmer is projected to be, he is still thought to develop into a top of the rotation starter. Last season, across two levels, Zimmer only produced a 6-9 record and a 4.32 ERA, he had a WHiP of 1.172 and struck out four batters for every walk allowed. Considering that Zimmer struck out 140 batters in 108.1 innings last season, that strikeout to walk rate becomes even more impressive.
Right now, Zimmer is expected to make his Royals debut when rosters expand in September of this season. If he continues to produce as he did last year, then Zimmer may get the chance to do for the Royals what Gray and Wacha did for their teams last year. With the Royals expected to be one of several teams contending for a Wild Card berth at minimum, Zimmer may end up being the difference maker.
Young starters made a difference for several playoff teams last year. If the Royals are on the verge of the playoffs, perhaps Kyle Zimmer can provide the same boost.