Kyle Zimmer was the fourth overall pick by the Royals in 2012. The Royals drafted him as a pitcher even though Zimmer was a walk-on third baseman when he started at the University of San Francisco. His transition to pitcher came as an opportunity to get playing time.
Kyle Zimmer was the kind of pitcher you hope for when you make your first pick in the draft. He had a fastball any pitcher would like to have. He had a breaking ball that was really difficult to hit. The “don’t throw too much” crowd would have loved him because he had just turned into a pitcher in college and had not been “abused” by youth coaches.
Zimmer was a rare specimen: He had an arm that could light up radar guns and a breaking ball that could drop off a table. Yet he possessed none of the wear and tear from years of pitching on travel-ball teams or in high school. His college coaches marveled at his ability to pitch through injury. Scouts recognized his ferocious competitiveness.Rustin Dodd for The Athletic
That’s what the “smart” baseball people tell us these days. You don’t want to pitch competitive baseball too much as a kid because coaches will abuse you. Of course, if you don’t pitch enough growing up you most likely won’t be good enough to get drafted. Regardless of what Major League Baseball wants you to believe, you aren’t getting drafted as a pitcher because you played more than just baseball as a kid and saved your arm. You are getting drafted as a pitcher because you throw hard and have some control over it (although they believe they can teach control). They don’t believe you can teach velocity (wrong!) but they believe you can teach control. Regardless, Zimmer had the talent to learn the position in college and become the top pick for the Royals in 2012.
The future was bright for both Zimmer and the Royals. Zimmer should have been on the fast track to the major leagues except for:
- Elbow surgery in 2012
- Bicep tendonitis a year later
- Minor shoulder surgery in October 2014
- Shoulder soreness in 2015
- Labrum cleaned in 2015
- Shoulder issues and soreness again in 2016
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome surgery in 2016
- Recurring shoulder soreness in 2017
Eventually the Royals needed room on the 40-man roster so Zimmer was designated for assignment in March of 2018. The Royals, a team who has been very old-school under Dayton Moore, had a pitcher who couldn’t get healthy. He hadn’t been using weighted balls or throwing step-behinds or any of the other “radical” new-school, science based approaches to building a pitcher. So how was he hurt?
Part of the injury problems are probably just that injuries happen in sports. Sometimes there is no reason other than bad luck. However, with proper physical evaluation and training techniques you can be healthier. Unfortunately, the Royals’ approach has not done anything to help him. Rest is not the answer. Many youth baseball players hurt their arms by not throwing enough rather than throwing too much.
Fortunately, the Royals were desperate to get something to fix Kyle Zimmer so they talked with him about re-signing with the team and going to spend time with Kyle Boddy at Driveline Baseball to try to get him right.
Now, the Royals sending anyone, especially a former #4 overall draft pick to Driveline Baseball is something I never thought I would see. See, Driveline Baseball is on the cutting edge of pitcher development much like the Texas Baseball Ranch. Both companies scare the old-school teams who believe things like pitchers shouldn’t throw more than 90 or 120 feet out of fear of hurting their arms.
Speaking of not throwing more than 90 or 120 feet, meet Jaeger Sports and their throwing program. Watch the following to understand their philosophy about building the arm and you’ll see guys throwing the length of a football field. Oh, and when you hear people talk about long toss, if they aren’t doing something like in the video below they aren’t doing it right and do risk injury or at least wasting their time.
The people who listen to the old-school baseball guys will tell you this is crazy and will hurt you. Well, no, it actually is very successful at keeping your arm healthy.
Driveline Baseball is just as “radical”. To help you understand what people think fo Driveline Baseball’s approach to pitching, just know that Trevor Bauer trains with them. That will scare a lot of people. To get some idea of what this means watch the video in this story.
So how did things go with Zimmer at Driveline Baseball? Well, he arrived at Driveline throwing 58mph with pain and left throwing in the mid-90s pain free. You see, he got healthy by training and throwing, not by sitting around resting.
Dan Plesac of MLB Network talked with Zimmer for the network’s 30 for 30 show on the Royals. You can see that discussion here.
The regular season is still three weeks away but so far so good for Kyle Zimmer in Spring Training. He’s healthy and throwing well. Zimmer has only pitched in three games. He has allowed three hits and walked none in 4.2 innings with two strikeouts. He’s throwing in the 90s and looking good to this point.
The Royals bullpen was awful last year and Zimmer has nothing he needs to prove in the minor leagues. The Royals need to use what Zimmer has in the major leagues. If he continues to throw well this spring he needs to be in the bullpen. Nobody knows when he might get hurt again. Why waste any of his talent in the minor leagues at this point? Get what you can for your money and that’s in the major leagues.
There’s nothing saying that Kyle Zimmer will be healthy for the rest of his career because he worked with Driveline Baseball. I would like his chances better if he worked with Driveline Baseball prior to all of his injuries. He might still get hurt. However, he feels better now than he has in years and his pitching reflects that. The Royals must use him in the major leagues and I fully expect that they will.