Though the majority of baseball analysts believed that Mark Appel would be the 2012 MLB Draft’s top overall pick, and the first bay area pitcher to hear his name called last night, Kyle Zimmer ended up taking home the honors out of the number-five slot. The Royals drafted the University of San Francisco star pitcher three picks ahead of Appel, who ended up with the Pirates at number-eight. Armed with 94 MPH heat, polished command and a Major League frame, Zimmer has all of the ingredients necessary for a long, successful big league career.
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
University of San Francisco
Overall Future Potential: 59
Kyle Zimmer is a late bloomer. He left La Jolla High School as a 5’11″ third baseman who had just posted a team-leading .410 batting average in his senior season. As he prepared to enroll at USF though, his talents didn’t garner much attention from scouts. As someone who finished high school with a 4.20 GPA and as a member of the San Diego All-Academic team, that didn’t seem to affect his future anyway. In his first season at USF, he road the bench.
The team’s star third baseman, Stephen Yarrow, left little room for Zimmer on the diamond. So, during his freshman season, his coaches decided to try using his plus arm off the mound. Through 5.1 innings pitched, he totaled an unimpressive 8.10 ERA, but because his fastball touched 90 MPH, Coach Nino Garratano decided to have Zimmer devel0p some offspeed stuff in the Cal Ripken Collegiate League over the summer. The move immediately proved to be the right one. Zimmer tossed 46 sparkling innings of 1.37 ERA-baseball and was named honorable mention All-Cal Ripken Collegiate Baseball League.
After getting little attention from the pro baseball world throughout his amateur career, Zimmer broke out in his sophomore year and put together a historic junior campaign. He walked on to the Dons’ field in 2010 with a strikingly different frame, now standing at 6’4″ and carved out of lean muscle. Boasting a power heater, quality offspeed stuff and advanced command, Zimmer struck out 89 batters in 91 innings and was named First-Team 2011 All-WCC. He opened his junior season in dominant fashion, tossing consecutive complete game shutouts against Hawaii and UC Santa Barbara. USA Baseball named him to the Mid-Season Golden Spikes Award Watch List and he finished the Spring with a 2.85 ERA and leading the WCC in strikeouts (102) and K/9 (10.6).
Zimmer’s best attribute is his ability to throw his above-average fastball for quality strikes. His balanced, quiet delivery and quick, clean arm action help him generate plus velocity efficiently. His four-seamer sits firmly in the 93-95 MPH range deep in to his starts and rarely dips below 92. Though it’s a traditional, straight four-seamer, he stays on top of it and attacks hitters, making it very difficult to loft. Zimmer is adept at working both sides of the plate and keeping his fastball away from the barrel. He’s no finesse pitcher though, he can ramp his velocity up to 96-98 MPH when he’s loose. His easy wind-up and quick arm make it difficult for opposing hitters to react to his heat and he spent much of 2012 simply over-powering the competition. Though he’s still relatively new to pitching, for a top college arm, his command and control are already MLB-quality and both could be plus in the near future.
A bright student and a tremendous athlete, Zimmer is the complete package. He’s taken to pitching unbelievably quickly and he’s developed at a whirlwind pace. His command and delivery are big-league caliber and his repertoire is premium– complete with two nasty offspeed pitches. Sitting around 78-80 MPH, his curveball is one of the best in the college ranks. With big 11-5 movement, it pops out of his hand with a tight arch and dives down and away from right-handed batters. He can throw it for strikes and he has a great feel for the pitch. With more experience and coaching, he should be able to mold it in to an MLB strikeout pitch by throwing it harder and out of a fastball tunnel. His changeup is solid. Released with near-fastball arm speed, his change has good two-seam tail and he can generally get it over the plate when he needs to.
Zimmer is a gifted young pitcher, and his makeup and intelligence make him a low-risk pick. Heading in to the Spring, Appel was considered a safe bet to be the first college arm selected on June 4th, but Zimmer’s incredible development might ultimately land him in Houston.