We've already begun our encompassing look at the starting pitcher position with the release of our consensus top 75 starting pitchers for the 2014 season. We will not be releasing a top prospect list by position this year, so there is no list of top 20 starting pitcher prospects coming, for the simple reason that ranking them for position isn't likely to help a lot of fantasy owners. Instead, as a part of each position, the prospect staff will look at a few prospects at each position who could potentially have an impact during the 2014 season. Next up on the list is Kyle Zimmer of the Kansas City Royals
Weight: 215 lbs.
On 40-Man Roster: No
Must Protect After: 2015 Season
DOB: 9/13/1991 (Age 22 season)
Undrafted as a third baseman out of high school, Kyle Zimmer was moved to the mound when he arrived at the University of San Francisco, and appeared just five times his freshman season. He made 16 starts as a sophomore, and another 13 his junior season before being drafted by the Royals with the 5th overall pick in the 2012 draft. He signed quickly, getting a bonus of $2 million and reporting to the team's Arizona League squad. After just 10 innings pitched there, he was sent up to finish the year in full-season ball, making six more starts and combining to strike out 42 and walk just 8 in 39 innings pitched.
The Royals moved him up to High-A for the 2013 season, and it was a tale of two seasons really for Zimmer. He was extremely inconsistent through the month of June, having solid starts at times but then giving up a bunch of runs and hits in the next one. He settled in pretty well down the stretch, making four starts and striking out 36 and walking three in 25 innings before his promotion to AA. He struck out another 27 over his last four starts there before his season ended due to shoulder soreness.
The Scouting Report
Zimmer's report is the stuff that dreams are made of in terms of repertoire. He starts with a potentially elite fastball, which has had reports of touching triple digits at times and routinely sitting in the mid-90s. He also features both a curveball and a slider, and both pitches can potentially be above-average as well. As if that weren't enough, Zimmer's changeup is also expected to be at least an average offering, but isn't there quite yet.
The thing that holds Zimmer back to some extent are the things surrounding that repertoire. He doesn't get a ton of deception from his pitches due to his delivery, but I'm not sure if it is really going to have that much of a negative impact given the strength of his offerings. The delivery is very easy, although there have been questions in the past about his ability to keep the ball down consistently. In general, there are just a few more questions that keep him from being ahead of some of the elite pitching prospects right now. It's really splitting hairs to an extent, but at the top of these lists that is generally what you are doing.
What's Keeping Him From Contributing Now?
Zimmer has made just four starts above A-ball at this point, and will be on an innings limit this year of 150. Unless he blows through AA and AAA, very few of those will be in the major leagues. An opening in the rotation is a lot more likely in 2015, with just Jeremy Guthrie and Jason Vargas locked into contracts for that season from the current rotation.
When Could He Arrive?
The most realistic timetable for me puts Zimmer in the majors starting in 2015. We could see him for a start or two during this season, but I wouldn't draft him anticipating that to occur.
What Can He Do When He Gets There?
Zimmer could be a potentially high-end strikeout contributor for fantasy, and should be able to provide excellent value in both ERA and WHIP as well. It wouldn't surprise me to see fantasy lines of 10-15 wins, a sub-3.50 ERA, and approaching 200 strikeouts to go with a sub 1.20 WHIP in his better seasons.
The more I read about Zimmer, the more interested I become in his long-term potential. He's going to be at #25 overall on our consensus top 200 prospects rankings, and should be in the majors by the start of 2015. He's a definite target in dynasty formats, although I wouldn't draft him this year in redraft leagues except in AL-only formats. He gets a bit overlooked at times behind the big names in pitching prospects like Walker, Gausman, and Giolito, but his ceiling is just behind that group.
Jason Hunt is a contributing writer for Fake Teams, specializing in the minor leagues and prospects. You can follow him on Twitter @jasonsbaseball