I will never bet against Kyle Zimmer. Nobody other than Kyle Zimmer understands the pain, isolation, frustration and mental anguish he has gone through since being drafted #5 overall by the Royals in 2012. Knowing only what I have gleaned from media reports over the past few years, I can tell you I would’ve quit a long time ago. Especially with millions in the bank from the $7.5 million signing bonus Zimmer signed out of college.
To put it bluntly, pretty much everyone gave up on Kyle Zimmer. Everyone except Kyle Zimmer and the Kansas City Royals. Zimmer was a hurt, failed prospect who has never pitched more than 107 innings at any level of baseball. The situation was so dire that when Zimmer and the Royals agreed to take the 2018 season off to train, Zimmer was reportedly limited to 58 mph his first day at Driveline in 2018. No wonder the Royals were out of ideas – Zimmer was broken and had been for years.
For what it is worth, I never stopped believing.
This may sound self-aggrandizing or that I’m trying to force myself into story as an expert. Let me put that to rest, nothing Kyle Zimmer has done is about me and I’m not writing this now to somehow get credit for his success. I am writing to share exactly how amazing Kyle Zimmer is and has been as a prospect. I am writing to illuminate that Kyle Zimmer now represents to me THE perfect prospect, one with the Tools, Character, and now Process, to be a successful major league pitcher. And just maybe, with his newly found health and process, even become a star.
Zimmer now has everything he needs to be successful
My experience evaluating players has taught me that you bet on three things when forecasting players: Tools, Character, and Process. These are the three legs of the “prospect stool” that I believe separates the future major leaguers from regular prospects. Within these three categories are the ingredients to determine whether a player can develop the skills from talent necessary to be successful. Kyle Zimmer had two of these “legs” for years. Insane pitching tools were why the Royals selected Zimmer #5 overall in 2012. The relentless makeup and character to continue to push through adversity when almost everyone had given up in him was evident early in his Royals career. What Zimmer lacked – through no fault of his own – was a Process that worked for him to create the health and wellness to allow for development into the star player his Tools and Character suggested was just around the corner.
The Tools were the easy and most obvious leg of Zimmer’s scouting report.
The University of San Francisco has had a fair share of pitching taken highly in the Draft in recent years, with Aaron Poreda (No. 25, 2008) standing out. Zimmer has the chance to potentially beat Poreda with a strong spring.Zimmer has the makings of four pitches that could be at least Major League average. Any talk about the strong, durable right-hander has to begin with his plus fastball that he can run up to 97 mph. He maintains velocity deep into his starts and he has pretty good run and sink to it. His curve is a power breaking pitch, one that could be an out pitch at the next level. He also throws a slider that’s very effective when he throws it right. Zimmer doesn’t throw his changeup much, but he does have one and it looks like it can be deceptive with sink if he starts throwing it more consistently. He is a very consistent strike thrower.Zimmer will pitch all year at age 20. With his size, stuff and pitchability, there’s little question decision-makers will be flocking to Northern California to get multiple looks at him.
Few average fans understand the mental and physical main resulting from pitching injuries. Shoulder pain, elbow pain and TOS can be excruciating. Here’s Zimmer himself describing not being able to brush his teeth or comb his hair because of the pain:
For SEVEN years Kyle Zimmer dealt with an array of injuries and surgeries that not only limited his ability to perform on the field, but limited his daily life. By my count, he had two shoulder surgeries, an elbow surgery and thoracic outlet syndrome surgery AND still kept showing and struggling to find his way. To put it mildly, few players have the ability overcome such struggles for so long.
Amazingly, Driveline created a process by which Zimmer finally achieved and can – with any luck – maintain health. Many make the mistake of associating Driveline with long toss and weighted ball training as gimmicks for increasing velocity. A proverbial one stop shop for fastball development. But watching Kyle Zimmer as a fan, it is evident Driveline is much more. In my opinion, Driveline is a holistic approach to player development. Even for players that are physically and mentally broken – as Kyle Zimmer likely was when he showed up – Driveline offers an opportunity to develop a process for success.
Zimmer’s process isn’t just throwing pull-downs or weighted balls a couple times a week. I can only guess, but from the outside looking in his process seems to be the evaluation of an immense amount of data and making the physical and mental adjustments to change the outputs to desired parameters. In other words, a process using changing inputs to achieve desired outputs. I’m probably oversimplifying – but the change is real and measurable, and I believe lasting.
Putting It All Together
Now, Zimmer has the final leg of the proverbial stool that will help him finally stand tall and achieve what he has always been capable of at the big league level – success. Many would argue throwing a single pitch in the big leagues will be enough for Zimmer to claim success. But I can’t limit my belief in Kyle Zimmer to simply making the big leagues. I believe Zimmer will dominate. After all, if there’s even the slightest chance, he’ll have the last laugh. Good luck Kyle!
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images