Craig Goldstein looks at the back-to-back picks from 2012's Rule IV draft, how they differ and which might be the right fit for your fantasy team
Drafted consecutively with the 4th and 5th overall picks in 2012's Rule IV draft, Gausman and Zimmer are likely to be linked to each other for the rest of their careers, so why not start with a quick rundown of what each one brings to the table. Some background info on each: Gausman was a 6th round draft pick of the Dodgers in 2010 as a fallback in case 1st round longshot pick Zach Lee didn't sign (Gausman had more talent that a 6th rounder but was asking for seven figures). Well, against all odds, Lee did sign and the Dodgers let Gausman follow through on his commitment to LSU in a move that might have worked out better for Gausman than for the Dodgers (at least thus far). It was believed that Gausman was looking for $1 million from the Dodgers, and he bettered that by more than $3 million just two years laters, pulling down $4.32 million from the Orioles as the 4th overall draft pick. Also a draft eligible Sophomore, Zimmer was more of an unknown quantity. He initially began his career at University of San Francisco as a third baseman, but switched to the mound, with good reason. He exploded onto the scene in 2011, outdueling future #1 overall pick Gerrit Cole and proved he was no fluke with a strong 2012 season. While they may have reached their current destinations following fairly different paths (especially in regards to notoriety), Zimmer and Gausman both present plenty of problems for opposing hitters.
Gausman was drafted first so we'll start with him. In his age 21 season, Gausman made pit stops at two different levels in the Orioles system, making 5 total starts, and pitching 16 total innings. In those very few innings he struck out 13 and walked 1. There's not much to analyze here statistically as he pitched too few innings on the season and never went more than 3 innings in a start. What we can guess is that his 3 starts in Hi-A Carolina might have been a tune-up so that he could begin the 2013 season in Double-A if he can impress in spring training. It's hard to get a beat on how the Orioles might treat him as they began very slowly with their last pitching prospect (Dylan Bundy) starting him in Lo-A, before rocketing him through the system to the point that he reached the majors all in one year. I'm not willing to hazard a guess at where he begins the season, but will say that given Bundy's path, it is largely irrelevant where he starts. If he produces like they want him to, he'll get where he needs to be in short order.
Regularly sitting in the mid 90s and touching 98 MPH is going to turn some heads, and that's exactly what Gausman did at LSU. It's a plus-plus fastball, and he will also mix in a nasty two-seamer in the low 90s that works as a sinker, generating a ton of ground ball outs. His other plus pitch is a mid 80s change up that he gets swings and misses with. It's a nasty pitch that features good arm action and it fools plenty of hitters. His breaking ball lags behind the other two though, as he threw a slider and a curve that didn't feature much separation from each other, or hitters bats. The slider seems to have more potential and the Orioles coaches have seen growth with that pitch, so I would expect the curve to get shelved or be more of a show-me pitch. Gausman is an excellent athlete and maintains his delivery well. At 6'4/185 he's got room to fill out and can get good extension on his pitches. He's a hard worker and a cerebral pitcher. I'd make a point to look for some development in his breaking ball, as we've repeatedly seen what can happen to pitchers who lack of quality breaking option (Teheran). Nevertheless, I'm excited about Gausman's future and think there's a good chance he's able to add a third pitch. He could reach Baltimore as soon as this year.
Despite being diagnosed with bone chips before signing his $3 million contract with Kansas City, Zimmer accrued just under 40 innings after signing. He did eventually get the issue resolved with surgery after the minor league season ended, and is on track to begin Spring Training with no limitations. In his near 40 innings, Zimmer racked up 42 strikeouts against 8 walks, showcasing his advanced stuff against weaker competition, first in the Arizona League and then in the Lo-A Midwest League. Kansas City was desperate for a pitcher in the 2012 draft, and was hoping for one that could move quickly, in time to help the team during their window of competition. They got that in Zimmer, who should move quickly and will likely start 2013 at Hi-A, but could see Double-A before long. An appearance in the big leagues in 2013 is a bit of a long shot, as the Royals have a few other options at starter that might get a look sooner. It will be predicated on performance as well, and if Zimmer is the best man for the job, he'll get a shot.
Zimmer's fastball sits a little slower than Gausman, registering in the 93-95 MPH range (though it touches higher), but features good late life. It's a swing and miss pitch on it's own and he complements it with a hard curveball that can operate as an outpitch as well. He will also show a plus change with good fade on rare occasions, though it is mostly below average right now. The change shows some promise and could give him three plus pitches in time. He also mixed in a slider fairly often in college, though it is not nearly effective as his curve. Like Gausman, Zimmer is a good athlete and despite only having been a full time pitcher for two years, has sound mechanics and the ability to repeat his delivery. I love the quantity of pitches that Zimmer can throw and feel that this gives him a bit of an edge relative to Gausman, though Gausman's pure stuff might beat out Zimmer's.
Back when the draft occurred I wasn't very much on Zimmer, but he's grown on me a lot in the recent past. I am finding myself his ability to move quickly for an organization that is starved for good, cheap pitching and I love that he has three pitches he can throw right now with two above average. I prefer a pitcher have to develop a change up than a breaking ball, as curve's are often in the wrist or not, and perhaps Teheran's struggles in developing a consistent breaking ball is in the back of my mind. I think Gausman might have an ever-so-slightly higher ceiling based on the raw stuff, IF he can find a reliable third pitch. That said, I'd be happy to choose either player (and I did draft Gausman in the FT Dynasty League), as a mid-rotation workhorse with the chance to be more. I put them on a similar timetable to reach the majors, with Gausman arriving a little sooner, but the value derived from that being fairly minimal.