The July 4th holiday weekend is upon us and everyone’s schedules are a bit wonky. WFNY is no different there. As such, a big thank you to Josh Poloha for filling in Monday on While We’re Waiting. He wrote a good one on a topic that has deserved an article for awhile now. Enjoy.
When the Cleveland Indians called up Bradley Zimmer on May 16, many expected his biggest impact to be at the plate and on the base paths. Instead, though his offensive contributions have exceeded expectations, his defense is drawing the most attention for the 24 year old. Just how good is his defense? Through 43 games in center field, there can be a valid argument made that he should be a Gold Glove candidate. If his defensive prowess continues, he will be a candidates to be one of three American League outfielders selected to win the award.
In the last week, Zimmer has had quite a time in center field. Not only has he covered plenty of ground, but he has made some highlight reel-type plays, and ones that may be considered some of the best catches of the MLB season. He has used his speed to get the chance to catch fly balls and line drives with ease that would have been out of the range of any other Tribe outfielder, but it’s his diving catches that put the whole baseball world on notice.
His June 28 catch started a string of ridiculous diving grabs for Zimmer. In this one, he traveled almost 80 feet and was able to prevent a double by Rangers’ Shin-Soo Choo. The way he glides with those long legs, he runs faster than it appears as he covers much more ground in little time. Similar to Josh Gordon running wideout for the Browns, you know when he still did such things.
Then came Saturday’s doubleheader. In two games, he had two incredible catches, the second of which could be in the running for the catch of the year in the MLB. With Detroit having the biggest center field in the league, Zimmer was able to show off just how good he is defensively. In the first catch, he took a chance, a chance that quite possible could have led to a three-run inside-the-park home run if he missed it. In the second, he not only showed off his speed, but his ability to dive and use his length as well, almost parallel to the ground at one point.
Just how impressive was the catch Saturday night? Indians manager Terry Francona, who spent 10 years playing in the MLB and is currently in 17th season managing, said that it’s the most spectacular diving catch he’s ever seen.
In case you want to hear Tom Hamilton’s call of Zimmer’s insane nab, don’t worry, we have you covered:
Tom Hamilton announcing Bradley Zimmer's incredible catch? Yes please. pic.twitter.com/sZuIDPxEDY
— Josh Poloha (@JorshP) July 2, 2017
Along with his ability to catch the ball wherever it is in center field, the rookie also has one heck of an arm, a 99 mph arm to be specific. Here he is throwing out White Sox’s Melky Cabrera on June 9:
Then, on June 18, he threw out Twins’ Max Kepler at home with a 101.5 mph throw, the fastest from fielder recorded to date this season, as MLB.com’s statcast shows:
Batters may not only want to reconsider the city that Zimmer is standing in when in center field, but even the zip code and county, because if the ball is hit anywhere around him, it’s most likely going to be eaten up by the center fielder. Zimmer’s long strides due to his size make him look like a cheetah sprinting for his prey: the baseball. The most amazing part is the fact that the rookie makes it look so easy, using his long strides to just glide wherever he has to go in order to cover the ground in center field. Plays that may be hard- or impossible- for others, Zimmer makes look routine.
Even if Zimmer is just average at the plate, his ability to cover so much ground in the outfield makes him an everyday starter. Add in the fact that he has a .278/.345/.437 split at the plate with eight doubles, four home runs, 22 RBIs, and seven stolen bases and the rookie has a chance to be something special for the Indians, both at the plate and in the outfield.
Cleveland hasn’t had a good, fast center fielder with great defense since Kenny Lofton. Could Zimmer be next? Only time will tell, but 42 games into his career in Cleveland, it looks like he could be that and maybe even more.
If he wants to win a Gold Glove for his efforts in center field this season, Zimmer will not only have to continue what he has done so far this season, but he will have to outduel some other AL outfielders, such as Twins’ Byron Buxton and Red Sox’s Mookie Betts, the latter of which won a Gold Glove last season. Rays’ Kevin Kiermaier has won one the last two years, but due to a hairline fracture in his right hip, he has only played in 62 games this season and likely won’t be eligible to win his third Gold Glove in as many years.
Another thing Zimmer will have to battle through is the fact that the Indians don’t get the national exposure that teams like Boston and New York do. Along with Betts, Yankees’ Brett Gardner also won a Gold Glove last season. When teams like the Red Sox and Yankees are on national television as much as they are, it’s easier for those players to get noticed. Luckily for Zimmer, the highlights he has made so far this season have not only been seen around the MLB world, but also has made people realize the talent that Cleveland has in its center field.
Zimmer may be known for his speed on the base paths, but not even be halfway through his rookie campaign, he has already made quite a name for himself in the Indians’ outfield and he deserves to be in the the conversation to win a Gold Glove in the AL outfield if his incredible defense continues.