Kansas City Royals: The Return of the Myth, Kyle Zimmer

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02: Starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer
SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 02: Starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer /

Over the weekend, the Kansas City Royals brought back a familiar name. To the people of Kansas City, this person is more of a mythical creature rather than a real person. However, this time the myth could finally become a reality.

When news broke that the Kansas City Royals are bringing former fifth overall pick in the 2012 MLB Draft, it came with some skepticism. Kyle Zimmer has always been a name we have heard in Kansas City, but we have never actually seen him. Injuries have ruined the career of a promising pitcher to this point.

Since being drafted in 2012, Zimmer has had some of the worst luck an athlete could have.

  • August of 2012 – Zimmer underwent a “minor procedure” on his pitching elbow.
  • August of 2013 – Zimmer was shut down for the rest of the season due to right shoulder stiffness.
  • March of 2014 – Zimmer was shut down for 6-8 weeks due to a lat strain in
  • October of 2014 – Zimmer reinjured his right shoulder.
  • October of 2014 – Zimmer underwent a debridement procedure to repair his right labrum and rotator cuff.
  • May of 2015 – Zimmer had his throwing program suspended after experiencing soreness in his surgically repaired right shoulder.
  • April of 2016 – Zimmer was held back for an extended spring training after developing some arm fatigue.
  • July of 2016 – Zimmer had surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome.
  • April of 2017 – While in Omaha, Zimmer has been placed on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury.

If you were to analyze the man’s arm, you would expect to find bubble gum, glue, and probably a couple band-aids holding it together.

All of this led to the Royals designating Zimmer for assignment in 2018 and later allowing him to become a free agent. While they did sign him to a minor league deal, he spent zero time with the Royals. Instead, he was going through a different type of rehab/training to try and keep his arm healthy.

The (potentially) new and improved Zimmer

When Zimmer was released/re-signed by the Kansas City Royals in 2018, he began a rehab plan that seemed to be his last chance. If this didn’t work, it could have been the end of his professional career.

Zimmer went to Seattle and worked out with a company called Driveline Baseball. This company was responsible for getting Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer‘s career back on track.

According to Driveline, they have a three-step process: “Test. Train, Retest.”

"TESTDriveline’s assessment is the foundation of our training protocols. We use motion-capture, barbell speed trackers, high-speed video, ball flight data, and manual tests to produce a comprehensive profile of each athlete.That profile, along with input from the athlete on their goals and timelines, informs how we train baseball players.TRAIN1000s of athletes and coaches use Driveline Baseball’s training programs to develop great baseball players. We use a data-driven approach to test and retest our training methods to develop batspeed and barrel awareness in hitters and pitching velocity and command in pitchers.Those programs can be executed in our Seattle facility or at your school or facility.RETESTTraining without a plan is just guessing. We set specific retest periods to ensure our athletes are meeting the goals they set for themselves and our training is effective."

Due to the rehabbing that Zimmer has done with this company, he seems to be a different pitcher. What used to be a pitcher who threw with pain in the low to mid 50’s was able to touch 100mph+ with zero pain.

While it is a small sample size, the optimism and positive reports coming from both Zimmer and Driveline Baseball, as well as the Royals, shows that the rehab is working.

What exactly does this mean?

Simply put, nothing right now. The Royals signed Zimmer to a unique contract. The deal is a two-part deal. If he is capable of staying healthy and is productive during Spring Training, he will join the major league team and make $555,000 in 2019. If he struggles and the Royals feel he isn’t quite ready they can send him to the minors where he will make $124,000.

Obviously, the Royals have some optimism when it comes to Zimmer, but they are also playing it safe. The hope is that he can come back and be the pitcher they had drafted eight-years ago.

With the amount of uncertainty that comes with the Royals 2019 season, having a player like Zimmer provides them with a homegrown “low-risk/high-reward” player. The starting rotation is far from set and the bullpen situation has just as many questions marks, if not more. If Zimmer could be productive as a starter or bullpen arm, the sting of the 2012 draft will start to dissipate.

Final Thoughts

The next aspect to keep in mind is where he fits with future pitchers within the organization. The Royals went heavy with pitchers in the 2018 draft and so far a large portion have panned out. Brady Singer, Jackson Kowar, and Daniel Lynch are looking to be future rotation pieces to go along with Jakob Junis and Brad Keller. Does the success these pitchers seem to be having push Zimmer to be a bullpen arm, or should the Royals try to push him to be a starter again? Does his health push him to be a bullpen arm no matter what?

It is hard to hold hope that Zimmer can be a productive asset to the Royals future if even the 2019 Royals. However, based on what we know about Zimmer’s abilities, it’s hard not to be excited about the possibility of him finally coming too.

He has a career 3.52 ERA over 268.2 innings in the minors spanning Rookie Ball to Double-A. During that time he has 325 strikeouts compared to 94 walks, nearly a 3.5 K/BB ratio and a 10.8 K/9. His fastball and curveball combinations make him a highly effective pitcher, with a nice change of pace changeup thrown into the mix.

Even though it has been eight years and a lot of mixed feelings when it comes to his place in Kansas City, something about this feels different. Whether it be blind optimism, or “drinking of the Kool-Aid”, I think the Zimmer train is about to make a stop in Kansas City.

Whether that is in the bullpen or rotation doesn’t matter to me at this point. Getting production from a first round pick is the most important thing right now. If Zimmer now starts to be productive, great. If this doesn’t work and he ends up being injured again, it’s probably safe to assume his career is over.

dark. Next. What does Kyle Zimmer Bring to the table?

Therefore, let’s hope for an opportunity to see what Zimmer can do as a big league pitcher. 2019 is going to be a down year again for the Royals, which makes this year perfect for them to experiment with a pitcher like Zimmer.

You can choose what type of expectations you want for Zimmer this year. Is he finally going to make his debut? Or is he going to follow his very detailed past when it comes to injury? What do you think will be the final result? Let us know below!