A top prospect, Zimmer has a power-speed combo that has become increasingly rare in fantasy, and because of Cleveland's injury troubles in the outfield, is getting a chance to contribute now. What can we expect?
The Situation: The Indians outfield is in dire need of help due to the injuries to Abraham Almonte, Brandon Guyer and Austin Jackson. Also, while Michael Brantley has hit fairly well so far, his playing time is being managed cautiously given his recent injury history. They have addressed this situation by calling up Zimmer, one of their top prospects (No. 3 in our 2017 Indians organizational ranking).
Background: Cleveland selected Zimmer 21st overall in the 2014 amateur draft, and the start of his first full pro season could not have gone much better. After he slashed .308/.403/.493, hit 10 homers, and stole 32 bases in 335 plate appearances for High-A Lynchburg, he was named to the Carolina League All-Star team and participated in the Futures Game. However, he struggled with Double-A Akron in the second half of the season, in large part because he tried to play with a hairline fracture in his right foot. The 24-year-old’s stock fell in 2016 after striking out 115 times in just 407 plate appearances with Akron, and 56 times in 150 plate appearances for Triple-A Columbus. Zimmer got off to a better start with Columbus before his promotion, as he slashed .294/.371/.532, along with five homers, nine stolen bases, and “only” 43 strikeouts through 144 plate appearances.
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Should pitchers be going up the ladder on low-power hitters or is that a danger zone?
The game of baseball moves like ivy, spreading upwards and outwards toward opportunity, consistent and chaotic. There are times in this growth where it tangles with itself, spins into contradictions. For years it drove managers to madness when their pitchers walked batters, and yet the batters themselves were encouraged by the same coaches to put the ball in play, show enough courage to take the bat off the shoulder. That seeming inequality grew as a consequence of a different priority, the valor of the productive out, available to the hitter and not his opponent.
As the culture of the game slowly grew to accept the walk and its benefits, another bias lingered: the idea that ground balls were beneficial to pitchers, while opposing hitters were often taught to swing downward on the ball and achieve that exact same result. The same cultural preference, of the ball in play (especially that vaunted achievement, the grounder to the right side with the runner on second), also promoted this strangely inconsistent set of philosophies. But batted-ball data and research has proven the benefits of not only swinging for line drives, but even putting the ball in the air compared to the grounder so long thought superior.
Bill James popularized sabermetrics. Hell, he coined the term. Several of his measures, like runs created, are still in popular use today, and his work has formed the basis for many sabermetric advances. But James created other measures that combine whimsy with measurement.
One is the power/speed number. It attempts to identify players who excel at both. It’s a simple formula: 2 x (HR x SB) / (SB +HR). That’s not #gorymath; it’s not even #goryalgebra, even if you add that it represents the harmonic mean of home runs and stolen bases.
Is it time to bring back the Herb Washington-style dedicated pinch-sprinter?
We all have radical ideas that we’d like to see implemented: the all-reliever pitching staff, the perfectly optimized lineup, the corner outfielders swapping based on batter handedness, etc. Until somebody puts them into play, they’re just ideas. What Charlie Finley did, then, was a favor to us all: He took one of those ideas and put it in play. And when it failed, we got to move on. We never had to talk about it again. For once, a crazy idea tried, tested, and settled.
Part two of a several-part series on the top tools in the minors.
Scouts spend countless hours watching and evaluating players, carefully considering the appropriate grade for each tool or each pitch a player offers. Throughout the course of the season and particularly throughout the course of ranking season, grades are tossed around with near reckless abandon. This player has plus power, and that player has a below-average fastball. This player offers above-average hit projection while that player buries hitters with a potential plus-plus curveball. It's easy to talk about the quality of an individual tool, but what does it all mean in the context of other players?
In the second edition of the annual Top Tools Series, the Baseball Prospectus Prospect Staff debated long and hard over how individual players’ tools stack up against those of their counterparts. Drawing upon our own eyewitness accounts and opinions from scouts across the league, the team debated and compiled the following ratings. The end result is a product that captures the oft-missing context of how individual player tools compare and who has the best of each tool in baseball.
Which pitchers have lost velocity over the past few seasons, and why?
In last week's episode of Raising Aces, we looked at those pitchers who have increased fastball velocity over the last three seasons. The article was inspired by the general tendency for pitchers to lose velocity as they age, and with this premise in mind, I decided to flip the switch and go digging for those pitchers who have lost some speed over the past three years.
For the purposes of this analysis, I chose to utilize the same threshold as with the pitchers who were over the radar: to qualify for the study, a starting pitcher had to have thrown at least 500 fastballs (or sinkers in select cases) in both the 2012 and 2011 seasons, and the average velocity of those pitches in 2012 had to be at least 0.50 mph lower than in each of the previous two seasons. The purpose of these boundaries is to capture a sustained loss in velocity across multiple seasons.
The 2013 Tigers will be heavy, slow, and probably bad at baserunning. How much will it hurt them?
We’re not great at holding a lot of small details in our brain for a long period of time, so we summarize and categorize, often remembering only the nut graph of a story rather than the specifics. I think we do this for baseball teams, too, and I’m sure I do it for baseball teams. I know a little bit about every Tiger, but when I think about the Tigers I mainly think along the lines of these bigger, summarizing narratives:
Max examines all the factors that influence pitch velocity, lays out his simple and complex approaches to making PITCHf/x information more accurate, and determines how hard the Nationals are really throwing.
Cooling off the radar guns No more calling Strasburg's 91 mph pitch a 'changeup'. It's disheartening to like 98% of the rest of us for whom 91 is a 'fastball'.—@BMcCarthy32