Written by Mark Nikolov Photo Courtesy of Ben Platt MLB Network
Everyone experiences a day in their life that will forever remain in their memory. The day that Bradley Zimmer will never forget was in the Spring of 2014 when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians. It was not an ordinary day of celebration for the Zimmer family. It was also an experience of deja vu. Two years earlier, Bradley’s older brother Kyle was drafted 5th overall by the Kansas City Royals. “MLB Network was in the living room just two years earlier. It was so exciting and unbelievable,” says Cathy Hutchins. Hutchins, mother of Kyle and Bradley, ran track at San Diego State University. Apparently, Bradley gets his speed from her.
Bradley’s father played collegiate baseball at the University of California in San Diego. He currently works as an anesthesiologist. His background in baseball helped groom two of his children into professional players, though at times, Bradley would do the grooming himself. At the age of 3 he would head out to the backyard to play tee ball, a game he then called “whack-a-ball!” His dad would constantly set him up to bat on the right side of the plate, but Bradley would always cross over to the left. Because of his persistence, he can now experience the benefits of being a left handed batter in the MLB.
Bradley played college baseball at the University of San Francisco before entering the Indians MiLB farm system. In an interview that I had with him, Bradley expressed how appreciative he was to his former team and coach Nino Giarratano. “I’m really happy with my experience as a player and student at USF. I’m also very thankful and grateful to everyone that helped me over there,” he told me. His decision to go to USF and follow in his brother Kyle’s footsteps was a good one. In 2011 Bradley was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the 23rd round out of La Jolla High School in San Diego. At that point he considered going pro, but instead (based on advice from his older brother Kyle) he opted for college. This decision would later pay off when he got drafted in the 1st round by the Indians.
Bradley has always had good relationships with his coaches and he’s always been a team player. That would explain why he is currently ranked as the Indians top prospect by several publications. He did however have to pay his dues in the Minors. According to Bradley’s mother, Cathy, “he enjoyed his time there…” In both Mahoning and Lynchburg “he lived with a really nice host family.” During his time in Class A, Bradley was immediately able to show off his speed. He had a combined 56 stolen bases at that level. Zimmer’s batting average did, however, drop off a little bit in AA. Something that he sometimes gets criticized for. However, if you look at his OBP. this past season you’ll see that he has a knack for getting on base, and when he does he moves from 1st to 3rd extremely well. When Bradley is playing at full health he should be able to produce at a high level in the MLB.
I followed Bradley recently while he was playing in the Arizona Fall League and noticed an increase in power from years past. Apparently this was not an accident. Zimmer told me that lately “he’s been working on driving the ball to all sides of the field.” As a result, he won the AFL Bowman Hitting Challenge this past October. Then in November, he was named to the MLB Pipeline All-AFL Team and was chosen as one of Baseball America’s 2016 Arizona Fall League’s Top 20 Prospects as well.
Since the AFL, Bradley has been taking it easy and spending time with his family in San Diego. This Spring he will be in Major League Camp with the Indians and, if all goes well, I suspect he’ll get the call from them in mid-season. One thing that stood out while we spoke on the phone was his loyalty to the Tribe. He told me that he is “very happy with the Indians organization” and that he wants to play his entire career with Cleveland. I’m sure the feeling is mutual. Rumor has it that his name was mentioned a few times during trade negotiations with the Yankees in the Andrew Miller deal. However, the Indians were insistent on holding on to him.
After speaking with Bradley, I get the impression that he is “aggressive”, a word that he has used in past interviews to describe his style of play. He’s eager to play in the Majors and excel at that level. What impressed me the most was his willingness to do an interview even though he was sick as a dog. He was constantly sniffling and sneezing the entire time we talked. Halfway through the interview I started to feel guilty and asked him if he wanted to postpone. He refused and gave me a good chunk of his time. In a day and age where team loyalty has become more and more rare in the MLB, Bradley epitomizes the concept of a team player. To this day he still keeps in contact with friends and teammates that he has known since childhood. I believe the Indians have made a great investment in a great person.
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