2020 season age: 27 – Throws: Right – Bats: Left – Contract: – Pre-arb (Salary not reported)
2019 in review: Zimmer missed a lot of time in 2019 with two different oblique injuries while recovering from a 2018 shoulder surgery that came from an injury in the minors that year when the Indians demoted him. He played just 15 games in the minors between the Arizona rookie league’s, Double-A Akron and Triple-A Columbus, putting together a .372/.449/.698 line. In just 14 plate appearances in the majors he didn’t get a hit but drew a walk and ran a 50% strikeout rate.
Beyond the stats: There’s not a lot to go on in advanced stats for Zimmer in 2019 due to not playing, but the 50% strikeout rate certainly isn’t good. In 26 Triple-A plate appearances, he did manage a 23% strikeout rate, which is a significant cut into his previous strikeout issue. He had an 11.5 BB%, so maybe with the changes he’s made to his stance and swing (he now stands very even with his feet and holds the bat almost like Ken Griffey Jr., whereas before he had a very open stance with his bat over his shoulder. The swing changes he made were to try to cut down on his swing with his long levers and allow him to keep his power, perhaps tap into it more with more contact.
Offensive impact: The biggest issue for Zimmer was his strikeouts. He has 20-25 home run power and the ability to draw walks, but he hadn’t made enough contact at the big league level to make any of those skills come to fruition. We also know he has elite speed and can steal bases, but that requires getting on base more, which was too hurt by the strikeouts. Any offensive gifts he has can be tapped into further once that comes down, and perhaps the stance/swing change will work.
Defensive impact: Zimmer can still be an elite defender. His sprint speed is still in the 99th percentile, he was in the 63rd percentile in outfielder jump though he was just in the 29th percentile in Outs Above Average in 2017. In 2019 in limited samples he was in the 67th percentile in sprint speed. He has the arm for right field and should still have plenty of speed for center field.
2020 role: With Naquin’s injury and the muddled outfield options, Zimmer should have had a clear path to earning MLB playing time in 2020. However, the Indians wanted him to go player winter ball and Zimmer didn’t agree for one reason or another. That seemed to annoy the Indians staff as they cited the amount of time missed and a new stance/swing to work on. That probably almost guarantees him a trip to Columbus in April. He’ll probably need to really force the issue in Columbus and injuries or performance issues to happen in Cleveland to get a callup again.
Fantasy impact: Given that right now it seems that Zimmer is probably going to be in Triple-A to start the year, he’s not someone to place on your fantasy roster. He’s capable of 20 homers and 20 steals but he needs a job first. Keep an eye on the Indians outfield situation early in the year and Zimmer’s performance in Triple-A. You can maybe stash him if he gets the callup, but I’d wait a little bit to see what his role on a major league roster would look like and see some numbers before taking a chance unless your league is that deep.