In early April, the Toronto Blue Jays made a trade with the Cleveland Guardians, sending Anthony Castro to Cleveland, in exchange for a speedy outfielder, Bradley Zimmer. At the time, it was expected that Zimmer would be nothing more than depth, but with Teoscar Hernandez going down with an injury, he has been forced into a much bigger role.
Zimmer is known for being an effective base-runner, and a good fielder, however, his bat has lagged far behind the rest of his game so far this season. Through 17 games this season, Zimmer’s average is way down at .083, and he has just three hits in that time. They come on a home run in Houston a few weeks back, in Boston a few days later, and on a bunt single in Cleveland on Thursday night.
If those numbers weren’t concerning enough for Zimmer, take into consideration his incredibly high strikeout total. Early in the season, Zimmer has been sat down 16 times, offset by just a single walk. When he has stepped up to the plate, he has become nearly an automatic out, and worse yet, he’s not putting the ball in play or forcing the other team to make a play.
Already, Zimmer has a negative WAR, meaning that if the Blue Jays found an average Major Leaguer, they would be better off. It’s not hard to see how he’s gotten there, either. Every time Zimmer steps up to the dish, he is costing the Blue Jays runs. According to the stats known as wRC+ (a stat that calculates a player’s runs per plate appearance, where 100 is average), Zimmer is a staggering -26. Among all players in Major League Baseball with at least 30 plate appearances, this ranks 347th. By comparison, Matt Chapman, who many fans have complained about for his lack of offence, has a wRC+ of 110. Raimel Tapia, who has also (rightfully, at times) caught heat from fans is up at 54.
It’s not just WAR and wRC+ that show Zimmer to be a wildly below-average player, at least at the plate right now. His batting average on balls in play (BABIP), is down at .059, showing that even when he doesn’t strike out, he not getting on base. It continues with barrels, a state used to see how many times a hitter makes contact with the sweet spot of the bat. This season, Zimmer has just one, coming against the Astros when he hit his home run. With this, Zimmer also doesn’t have a hard-hit ball this season.
There are even more troubling hitting stats for the 29-year-old. So far this season, he has been swinging at 38.7 percent of pitches outside of the zone, but far his highest percentage of his career. This is part of the reason he has struck out so many times this season, as he’s putting himself in a bad spot quite often.
Of course, there are some positives to Zimmer’s game, but none of them are currently warranting keeping his ice-cold bat around. For example, he has already grounded into four double-play opportunities this season, but none of them have been converted. This is, of course, because he has speed to burn, but considering he hasn’t been on base very often this season, it’s not very useful to Charlie Montoyo.
Sure, Zimmer’s defence has been better than average, but he still hasn’t been as good as he could be. Even with that, it’s not hard to see that Zimmer is hurting his team playing every day. Right now, the question is who would be available to bring in? For as long as Hernandez is out, the Blue Jays will be desperate to find someone.
Had Dexter Fowler not requested, and been granted his release, it would be a pretty obvious solution as he was batting .417 with three RBIs in three games with the Buffalo Bisons. That’s no longer an option, but there are others. It will take some creativity, but for the betterment of the team, Zimmer needs to see some time in Buffalo.
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