NILES - The Cleveland Indians' No. 1 pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, Bradley Zimmer, who just signed a $1.9 million signing bonus four days ago, will begin his professional baseball career this season with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers.
The Indians selected the University of San Francisco outfielder with the 21st pick in the draft. The junior still had one more year of college to complete at USF, but once his name was called in the first round, it was a no-brainer for Zimmer to skip his senior season and opt to sign a contract with the Indians.
"The season ended, we didn't have a really great year this year, so we were done pretty quickly," Zimmer said. "I was playing the waiting game for a week or two and then I heard my name called and was ready to go."
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Cleveland Indians 2014 first-round draft pick Bradley Zimmer looks on during Thursday’s game at Eastwood Field. Zimmer, 21, hasn’t yet played in a game for the Scrappers, but manager Ted Kubiak said he expects him to start in a game when the Scrappers return home next week.
Zimmer, 21, arrived in the Mahoning Valley three days ago and will spend the first portion of his major league preparation with the Scrappers. Even though Zimmer has yet to play a game for the Scrappers, he is anxious to hit the field and begin the next big stage of his baseball career.
"It's an unbelievable feeling having the opportunity to be drafted in the first round," Zimmer said. "Just like all these other guys, I want to come out here and compete and just have fun with it. I'm coming from a slow season in college, so I'm just happy to be a part of this."
This season at USF, the 6-foot-5, 205-pound lefty batted .368 with 10 doubles, seven triples, seven home runs and 31 RBIs. He also had 21 steals in 32 attempts. He played center field but is versatile and can play left and right field, too.
So far there is no definite timetable in place for how long Zimmer will be with the Scrappers or when he will even start. Scrappers coach Ted Kubiak said Zimmer hasn't played baseball in over a month, so the coaching staff wants to shake off the rust and ease him into the process of playing every day.
"My body feels good, I think it's just a matter of getting my reps in on the field before the game and just get back into a rhythm of gaining momentum," Zimmer said. "I was talking to the coaches and I think we're trying to set up a plan."
Zimmer said he will probably take a few at-bats this weekend while the Scrappers are on the road, just to get back in the swing of things. He will most likely take more reps this week when the Scrappers return home to host the Batavia Muckdogs and Jamestown Jammers.
"I think we're planning on having him start when we get back home," Kubiak said.
Zimmer can't wait to play this week, but the whole process of being drafted has already been quite a trip for both Zimmer and his family.
"It was a very emotional moment for myself, my family and all my friends," he said, "so it was pretty cool, something that I'll remember for the rest of my life."
MLB first-round draft picks are certainly nothing new to the Zimmer family. Bradley followed in his brother Kyle's footsteps.
The Kansas City Royals selected Kyle Zimmer, a pitcher, with the fifth pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. Kyle was shut down for six to eight weeks by the Royals because a lat injury, but he still managed to offer his baby brother some friendly advice, bro to bro, first-round pick to first-round pick.
"The majority of the stuff he told me was to just go out there and enjoy it and have fun with it," Zimmer said. "Hopefully I'll be squaring off against him in a couple of years."
With his slick, jet black hair, imposing frame and million-dollar smile, Zimmer certainly has the look and swagger of a first-round draft pick, but his play this season will ultimately determine his big-league promise.