SCOTTSDALE, Ariz: Indians top prospect Bradley Zimmer will not open the 2017 season at the major-league level, but he will leave spring training having made a strong impression.
Zimmer was informed on Sunday that he was being reassigned to minor-league camp, though he’s had an outstanding spring while continuing to make some swing adjustments, hitting .358 with a 1.084 OPS in 53 at-bats entering Sunday. The Indians have also noted some gains in his defensive play in center field and in his base-running.
Zimmer will begin 2017 in Triple-A. The Indians’ message to Zimmer upon delivering the news was that of a hope that he forces their hand in terms of when he makes his major-league debut.
“In the first meeting of the spring we tell the young guys, ‘The biggest thing you can do is make a good impression,’?” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I would say he flew past that about a month ago. This kid did everything in camp. He ran the bases, he improved in the outfield, he swung the bat, he made adjustments at the plate. … We told him, ‘Knock the door down. Make us call you up.’?”
Zimmer struggled through much of 2016 and in the Arizona Fall League while undergoing some swing changes in an effort to get to more pitches and adjust his path through the strike zone. His standing among the top-100 prospects in baseball, during that stretch, took a hit. Zimmer is also no longer the consensus No. 1 prospect in the system, now sharing that distinction with catcher Francisco Mejia, depending on different scouting services. Zimmer is ranked first and second in the system by MLB.com and Baseball America, respectively.
This spring was a reminder that, although a bit raw, Zimmer has the tools that warranted a top-30 prospect ranking a year ago.
“When the season starts and you see him getting four at-bats a game, it’s going to be real fun to watch his progress,” Francona said. “There will be some ups and downs like there are with everybody, but he’s exciting. We don’t want to deny it. We’re excited about him.”
The Indians on Sunday also optioned pitchers Mike Clevinger and Joe Colon to Triple-A Columbus and, along with Zimmer, informed third baseman Richie Shaffer, catcher Adam Moore, first baseman Chris Colabello, reliever Tyler Olson, catcher Erik Kratz and outfielder Daniel Robertson they wouldn’t be making the Opening Day roster. The latter four will remain in big-league camp.
Colon and Olson were each in the mix for the one or two spots available in the Opening Day bullpen. That race is now down to Shawn Armstrong, Carlos Frias, Nick Goody and lefty Kyle Crockett, all of whom have options remaining. Shaffer was vying for the potential third-base job should Jose Ramirez slide over to second base in Jason Kipnis’ absence. That leaves Yandy Diaz, Giovanny Urshela, Erik Gonzalez and Michael Martinez as potential options.
Some funny things can happen during spring training.
During the radio broadcast on Saturday, Tom Hamilton had Brody Chernoff, the 6-year-old son of Indians General Manager Mike Chernoff, on the air.
Hamilton jokingly asked Brody about his dad’s negotiations, and the youngster answered with a little more than he bargained for, possibly leaking contract extension negations for star shortstop Francisco Lindor. It’s also possible young Brody was just a bit confused or meant to say Jose Ramirez, who has reportedly agreed to an extension that could run through 2023, which represents the same seven years he mentioned with Lindor.
It’s potentially the most adorable scoop ever.
No confirmation on whether Brody is grounded.
Indians 6, Diamondbacks 5
The Indians received a positive sign early in their 6-5 Cactus League win over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
After Austin Jackson walked to open the game, Michael Brantley drilled a two-run home run to right field, his first of the spring.
It was his first home run in more than a calendar year, dating back to last spring.
“It’s just the product of a good swing,” Brantley said. “You go up there and try to take the most consistent swings as possible — anything to help the team at that time. Hopefully, the swings get better as this season gets closer.”
Brantley twice played in back-to-back games this week and has now appeared in five Cactus League games.
Trevor Bauer allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out eight in five innings pitched.
Colabello, only hours after being officially told he won’t be making the Opening Day roster, slugged a home run and two doubles.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ.