KC Royals: Four players facing make or break seasons in 2020

SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer #45 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on February 26, 2017 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - FEBRUARY 26: Starting pitcher Kyle Zimmer #45 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the first inning of the spring training game at Surprise Stadium on February 26, 2017 in Surprise, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /
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Kansas City Royals, Kyle Zimmer
(Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images) /

Kyle Zimmer was once a highly respected prospect. After a  minor league career derailed by injuries, he is at the point where he needs to prove he can get big league hitters out.

Kyle Zimmer was the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He had all the makings of a major league starting pitcher. Since then injuries have been the only constant in his career.

He had shoulder surgery in 2014. He came back strong from that initial injury. But in 2016, he would again have surgery on his shoulder. He spent the next few seasons mostly rehabbing and many of us wrote off any chance he had of a major league career.

To Zimmer’s credit, he came back in 2019 determined to make the Royals’ major league team. And he did. Although, it did not go well from there.

Zimmer threw just over 18 big league innings last season, which is not much to go on. But he gave up 28 hits over those 18 innings. He did strike out 18, which is a good sign. But his 19 walks more than wipe out any positive result you would hope to see from his strikeouts.

The good news is that Kyle Zimmer still has very good secondary pitches. His curveball has an above-average break to it. And considering he can throw it as slowly as 80 MPH consistently it is no surprise that it is effectively deceptive.

Zimmer’s best pitch is his slider. He throws it in the mid-80s, and he gets swings and misses on it 45 percent of the time. Playing off his 97 MPH fastball, that is an out pitch. But it only works if he can control his fastball.

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Kyle did pitch better in AAA after being moved there. He walked fewer batters, although still too many, and maintained an ERA of 4.33. He gets more than enough strikeouts to be a good reliever. But, if he is going to throw his fastball 60 percent of the time he must control it better than he did in 2019. And, at 28 years of age, he is going to need to show some real improvement in 2020.

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