When the Toront0 Blue Jays traded for Bradley Zimmer, they showed yet another example of how they go about their business
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On the eve of the Toronto Blue Jays 2022 season, when most people believed rosters were set, the Blue Jays went out and made a seemingly innocuous acquisition, getting Bradley Zimmer from the Cleveland Guardians. However, that acquisition, in a lot of ways, perfectly sums up the direction and mentality of this head office and the Blue Jays franchise in general.
On the surface, it may appear that acquiring Bradley Zimmer from Cleveland for the entertaining but wildly inconsistent Anthony Castro is a small move that borders on irrelevancy. Minor league reliever for 4th Outfielder is not exactly the sexy headline that makes fans blush and other head offices tremble in fear. The reality is, that Bradley Zimmer is, in many ways, the move that was necessary while also being the representative standard of what this Management group is trying to achieve.
When Mark Shapiro and his Cleveland Head Office decided to draft University of San Francisco outfielder Bradley Zimmer with the 14th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft they knew they were getting a young player with an electric combination of speed and power. The problem then, however, is still the problem now, despite the beautiful hard contact rates, the excellent approach, the world-class defense, and the borderline 80-grade speed, Bradley Zimmer has some of the worst in-zone contact rates you will see in all of baseball.
Now, every Head Office has a different value system when it comes to buy-low players, and players in general, and when reviewing the moves made by the Shapiro and Atkins led Blue jays the most noticeable trend is their willingness to accept 1 crater of a negative in a players profile (1st percentile contact rates in this case) if that negative comes with 1-2 certifiable, eye-popping elite skills. We have seen this with the recent acquisitions of Ray, Kikuchi, Semien, Collins, Chapman, Cimber, Richards, and Tapia just to name a few. So, in the case of Zimmer, you have the Elite Defense (94th percentile Outs Above Average, 80th percentile OF jumps), the Elite speed (97th percentile sprint speed), and a wonderful 42.5% hard contact rate that is analytically supported by exit velocities that rank him within the top 9% of Major League hitters. But now for the caveat, Bradley Zimmer has some of the worst contact skills in all of Major League Baseball.
The majority of Zimmer’s Baseball Savant profile reads like a player who should be pursuing All-Star game selections not toiling away as a 4th outfielder on a mediocre Cleveland squad, but those 1st percentile contact skills have continually capped his overall performance year in and year out leaving some uncertain if he will ever be able to unlock his full potential as a ballplayer.
While some players struggle to make consistent contact in certain locations or on certain pitch types, Zimmer has Derek Fisher-like swing and miss issues that fill the entirety of the zone. Now, clearly, some fans will immediately be scared off by the comparison to Fisher, but these “Low floor, High Ceiling” acquisitions are the moves that ball clubs do not regret if they crash and burn but can change the face of a franchise if they are able to unlock the potential that has been locked away.
The reality is moves like acquiring Bradley Zimmer are a low-risk lottery ticket. Worst case scenario Zimmer is what he has proven to be, a toolsy 4th outfielder who will provide an elite speed/defense combo with a frustrating lack of offensive consistency. Additionally, his presence offers more depth and ultimately buffer from the likes of Nathan Lukes playing significant time in the case of an untimely, elongated Injured list visit for a Springer, Hernandez or Gurriel. That added depth is invaluable during a season where your franchise goal is to compete for a championship, but who knows, maybe now, after struggling to find a consistent role at the Major League level, Zimmer will finally unlock the potential that has bewitched MLB franchises for nearly a decade, only time will tell.
*Featured Image Courtesy Of DaveMe Images. Prints Available For Purchase.
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