CLEVELAND – The Indians opted to trade Clint Frazier last July as part of a prospect package that brought in Andrew Miller from the Yankees.
While many considered the move controversial and concerning given Frazier’s selection as the fifth overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, it shed light on the Tribe’s future blueprint.
Bradley Zimmer was at the forefront of their intended outfield rotation for 2017 and beyond.
The 24-year-old rookie out of La Jolla, CA entered play with a .290/.389/.484 slash line, three doubles, one home run, four RBIs and three stolen bases in 12 games played.
His performance against the Athletics on Tuesday at Progressive Field elevated nearly every one of those totals…
What is even more impressive is the exit velocity of Zimmer’s go-ahead RBI double in the fourth frame, the fastest batted ball in the history of the franchise during the Statcast era.
Result: Two-run double near the right field wall on a changeup
Pitch Velocity: 90.1-mph
Exit Velocity: 114.5-mph
Distance: 304 feet
Launch Angle: 18 degrees
Hit Probability: 89%
The sheer size, power and athleticism of Zimmer makes him a physical specimen that the organization will likely cherish for the many years to come.
“I’m here to help this team win,” said Zimmer. “However I can do that, I’m going to do that. At any point in time, whether it’s defense, bases, offensively, I feel like I can contribute to each win.”
In breaking down Zimmer’s approach at the plate, it is evident he is capable of spraying the ball to all parts of the field, especially on a night where he smoked the ball in both directions in each of his four at-bats…
Zimmer has balanced his production to the pull side (26.3%), up the middle (42.1%) and the other way (31.6%) in a small sample size of batted balls thus far.
During his first two seasons in the minor leagues, Zimmer yanked the ball to right field at 50%, 62.5%, 54.5% and 46.5% clips as a member of the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Lake County Captains, Carolina Mudcats and Akron RubberDucks.
There seems to have been a drastic adjustment in approach since his professional debut.
“There was a little bit of velocity there in a couple of those at-bats,” manager Terry Francona said. “He hit the ball early into left field for an out, but it’s fun to watch. He’s exciting once he gets going, too, on the bases. He’s given us a real lift. It’s been fun to watch.”
Within two weeks of stepping on a big league field for the first time, Zimmer has already placed twice in the club’s top 10 hardest hit balls in terms of exit velocity. His home run did not qualify for this list, but did provide the Indians with the boost they needed to earn a 9-4 victory, their third in a row.
Result: Two-run home run over the right field wall on a changeup
Pitch Velocity: 88.4-mph
Exit Velocity: 103.3-mph
Distance: 401 feet
Launch Angle: 30 degrees
Hit Probability: 78%
Not only did Zimmer capitalize on two changeups up in the zone and account for four of the Tribe’s nine runs, but he has also established himself as the bottom of the lineup threat the club has been thirsting for.
“It’s awesome,” said Zimmer. “The guys at the top really set the tone. You hear the term hitting is contagious, I think it showed tonight. Everyone continued. It was a good win.”
With little depth across all three outfield positions, Cleveland could cement Zimmer as their everyday center fielder for the foreseeable future.
“I’ve just treated it like I’ve treated like I’ve done in the past,” Zimmer said. “Just because I’m in the big leagues now doesn’t mean I need to do anything different. I just need to continue to be myself and do what I need to do to contribute, helps this team win, ultimately.”
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.