It may have been a tough first week of the season for the San Diego Padres, but it becomes an easier pill to swallow when remembering that this year is primarily about development for the young team.
While April 5th marks the end of a brutal home stretch for the major league team, it’s also minor league baseball Opening Day for full-season leagues. Now there’s certainly something for Padres fans to get excited about. The organization has some of the most interesting young prospects in baseball at virtually every level. Check out the roster reviews written on all of the team’s minor league affiliates at eastvillagetimes.com, as well as EVT Podcast #92, entitled Minor League Roster Preview, to get the full scoop on the system.
The team has amassed it’s wealth of prospect depth from pretty much every avenue. A.J. Preller and company have utilized the international draft, the amateur draft, and the Rule 5 draft, as well as trades and lottery ticket player signings to cultivate MLB Pipeline’s number one-ranked farm system. Now it seems the team might have an opportunity to add one more intriguing piece to the hot talent lava trickling the Padres’ way.
Kyle Zimmer is a 26 year-old San Diego native who played high school baseball at La Jolla High. He began his college career as a third baseman for the University of San Francisco Dons who eventually converted him into a pitcher. He was drafted fifth overall in the 2012 MLB draft by the Kansas City Royals, who were about to begin their ascent as an organization to baseball greatness. Expectations were high for the young right-hander.
Zimmer began his professional career with the AZL Royals, and after a quick and impressive start, began to work his way up to the team’s Single-A affiliates. In 2012 he ended needing elbow surgery. In 2013 he was able to work his way up to Double-A, but experienced bicep tendonitis during the season. After the 2014 season, he require shoulder surgery. He was able to make his way back from Single-A to Double-A in 2015, but experienced shoulder soreness. In 2016, he required thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.
In 2017 things were starting look up for Zimmer as he finally made his way up to Triple-A, though he dealt with recurring shoulder soreness throughout the season. During spring training 2018, Zimmer experienced fatigue in his right arm, which appeared to be the final straw for the Royals, as they decided to designate him for assignment on March 29 to make room on their 40-man roster. He simply could never stay healthy to make any real impact.
On Tuesday, the Royals announced that they had requested unconditional release waivers on Zimmer. This was five days after he had been designated for assignment. The other 29 teams had until Thursday to claim Zimmer off of waivers. Of course, any team that did this would have to place him on their 40-man roster. The one week deadline for teams to make their move came and went. Apparently, a spot on the 40-man roster was too valuable for any team to afford to the oft-injured former top prospect. On Thursday, Zimmer was released by the Royals.
The rumor is that the Royals plan to re-sign Zimmer to a minor league deal in which they won’t have to utilize a 40-man roster spot. In doing this, they can rehab him at a more gradual pace and with less of the pressure. Well, if the Royals are willing to do this, why can’t the Padres?
It understandable why teams chose not to select Zimmer off of waivers, again roster space is valuable, but now that burden is no longer part of the equation, he seems like an intriguing option. Maybe he would be happy and willing to come to San Diego, where he’s comfortable, so that he can rehab and work his way back to relevance.
The team has had its fair share of working with pitchers coming back from injury. Examples of this are in Clayton Richard and Tyson Ross, both of whom have successfully undergone thoracic outlet syndrome surgery and are now on the 25-man roster. Carter Capps has undergone both Tommy John and thoracic outlet and seems to be making solid progress in his recovery. The point is, the team can work with pitchers recovering from injury. If they had hung onto Brandon Morrow just a little bit longer, they may have had one more major feather in their injury rehab cap.
At his best, Zimmer was known for his 95-mph fastball and an absolutely filthy curveball. He may never be the starter that was once hoped for him, but he could become a solid piece out of the bullpen. Maybe a lights out closer? Sometimes a change of scenery is the medicine that a player needs. It would be great for him to redeem himself in his hometown. Imagine how dramatic that would be!
Realistically, the Royals will probably find a way to hang onto Zimmer. They have invested a lot into him and I’m sure they are the organization most likely to give him the opportunity to succeed. They had to make the move that they did for the sake of their roster. You can never sleep on Preller though, he may just make a move like this without any notice. At this point, it would honestly be a pretty low risk/high reward opportunity with the potential for a feel good local story. You can never have too much pitching depth.