Cleveland Indians: Coming up on a big year for Bradley Zimmer

The former top Cleveland Indians prospect still has a lot to prove as he continues to work his way back as an everyday starter in the Tribe lineup.

Bradley Zimmer has been a thrill to watch in the outfield since was first called up in 2017. Unfortunately, the Cleveland Indians center fielder has seen his share of injury-related struggles since that time as well.

It started in 2017 when Zimmer injured his hand while sliding, effectively keeping him from playing in the postseason. In 2018 he didn’t even make it halfway through the season. A collision with the wall in Yankee Stadium was the start of a series of injuries that would keep him out of the second half of the season.

After undergoing shoulder surgery in July, it was confirmed that Zimmer would miss the remainder of the season and perhaps part of 2018. While 2018 was a much shorter season for Zimmer, his numbers actually regressed. You can take that with a grain of salt if you chose to; much of the Indians lineup had its struggles in early 2018.

When you consider how highly regarded Zimmer was in the Tribe farm system, it’s a bit staggering to see that he hasn’t quite been able to live up to the hype. Well, offensively at least. On defense Zimmer has been an acrobatic stud with 6.2 defensive wins above replacement in 2017. He looks like one of the Flying Graysons (you know, before they died).

But on offense, the productivity hasn’t been there. It’s hard to stay consistent when you’re injured, but Zimmer has yet to reach above .700 OPS or bat above .300 in his career. There is a chance that once he returns, Zimmer will have to compete with Greg Allen for his job in center field. Statistically, Greg Allen is far and above Zimmer offensively. If he is playing well come Zimmer’s return, I don’t see Allen losing the job.

This isn’t to say Zimmer is a lost cause. We’ve seen flashes of what he’s capable of, and he still has options remaining. But this is a year that Zimmer has to stay healthy and prove himself. Zimmer has shown with some impressive minor league numbers that he can still hit for power. Let’s not forget his powerful grand slam against the Angels in the summer of 2017.

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Zimmer likely won’t play in spring training, so his return will likely come in the form of rehab games with Double-A Akron. If he can shine there, perhaps we will see Zimmer proving his doubters wrong in the summer of 2019.