I attended the Keys vs. Blue Rocks game in Wilmington, Delaware on Friday April 12th. This marked the Blue Rocks' home opener, and they brought out their big gun for the home fans: Kyle Zimmer. He was drafted out of the University of San Francisco with the 5th overall selection (one pick after Kevin Gausman) in the 2012 MLB Draft, and was ranked as the #24 overall prospect this season per Baseball America. He has been compared to Kevin Gausman a number of times due to his advanced college experience and potential to be a top of the rotation starter in the future. But enough about him, let's talk about the O's.
Not sure what to make of him. He seems to have a solid grasp of the strikezone. And he didn't seem overwhelmed or intimidated at the prospect of facing Kyle Zimmer. He works the count well, but he doesn't seem to have the #oomph to put any kind of solid strike on a ball.
His 1st at bat he hit a routine grounder to 3B which was bobbled. A clean, accurate throw would have still gotten Davis at 1st, but the throw was high and wide. Not certain if knowledge of Davis' speed caused the 3Bman to freak out and rush his throw. Possibly. Or it was just a bad throw. I timed him at 3.83 down the line from the right side, which is solid 80 grade speed. Anyway, the throw got away and Davis advanced to 2B. The following batter grounded a ball back to the Zimmer, who proceeded to make his only mental mistake of the game by throwing to 3B in an attempt to catch Davis who broke for 3B on contact. The throw was high and got away from the 3Bman and trickled into left field foul territory. Davis jogged home for the game's first run. Again, it's entirely possible that knowledge of Davis' speed resulted in Zimmer making a bad throw. But I have my doubts. A clean throw looked to me that it would have had Davis dead to rights.
In his 2nd at bat he again worked the count, but ultimately K'd on a nasty sinker in the dirt. Only time I saw him expand his zone.
His 3rd at bat he hit a grounder back up the middle that looked as if it was going to skip through into the outfield for a clean single. But the SS demonstrated outstanding range (he did so on a number of other plays as well), dove and stopped the ball and fired to 1st from his knees. Throw was not in time. Another 3.83 clock from the right side. Unfortunately didn't get a chance to see him try to steal a base.
In the field, Davis didn't have too many opportunities. But he did have a miscommunication with RFer Brenden Webb on a play in the 6th inning. A well struck liner fell into shallow right-center field. Davis and Webb converge on the ball, but Davis cut Webb's path off in an attempt to field the ball. The ball skipped under his glove, and by now Webb had run past the ball toward center field. This allowed the runner on base to score easily when he otherwise could have been held to 3B if the ball had been fielded cleanly and gotten back into the infield in quickly.
Super impressed with Nicky D, both at the dish and in the field. He has a great body which still shows some room for filling out and adding muscle. He seems to start his leg kick super early. Almost while the pitcher is still in his wind-up, it seemed. But no matter, since he showed he has the ability to handle major league quality stuff, such that Zimmer possess anyway. He was the most impressive batter on the field this night. He knows his strike zone and doesn't seem likely to deviate from it. In his first at bat he drew a 4 pitch walk. Down and in, up and away, down and in, up and away. In his 2nd at bat he took a 96 mph sinking FB over the 1B bad and into the RF corner for an easy stand up Double. He then showed good baserunning instincts by advancing to 3B on a wild pitch that didn't get too far away from the catcher. But since he broke immediately he made it into 3B without a throw. In his 3rd AB, Zimmer managed to K him swinging on an up in the zone FB. His 4th AB came against a RP who wasn't particularly good. But he managed to lace an RBI single to RF. Very nice night at the dish as The Steak brought the sizzle.
In the field at 3rd base he demonstrated smooth mechanics on the chances he had, along with a calm awareness of the situation. The game was in no way 'too fast' for him, as opposed to his counterpart for the Blue Rocks who seemed a bit overwhelmed at times. There was a particularly nice play in the 4th inning where he made a nice backhand stab at a ball heading to the 3B bag. He calmly planted himself and made a strong, accurate throw to 1B to get the runner, the opposing SS, who had some decent speed. This wasn't a case of him just easily nailing a lumbering Catcher or 1Bman.
I've been quite vocal in my affection for the potential in the tools that Mr. Webb possesses. This was my first time getting to see him in person, and he remains as much of an enigma to me as ever. In his 1st AB, with runners on 1st and 2nd with 2 outs, he sensed a 1st pitch FB coming, and he got it. But the sinking action caused him to pound the ball into the ground to the 2B man. Easy throw to 1st. Inning over. Rally extinguished. Sigh. Zimmer continued to work the ball down in the zone against him in his 2nd AB, which ended in him watching a curveball dive into the zone. Solid pitch. In his 3rd AB, he would ultimately be called out on a check-swing appeal to the umpire (who was at 1st base. Minor league games typically only employ 2 umps; 1 behind home plate and one in the field). Webb seemed frustrated with the call, and rightfully so. The appealed to ump couldn't have had a good view of the bat head on the swing. His 4th AB gave a glimpse of his power as he drove a pitch into deep RF in spite of a steady wind & misty rain blowing straight in from that direction. Frawley is a tough place to hit a ball out of, but without the wind & rain that ball would have had a good chance of making it. Almost certainly would have hit off the wall at a minimum. As it was, the blast was good for a Sac Fly, giving the Keys a 4-3 lead.
He was impressive in his own right. He cruised through the first 5 innings, allowing just one baserunner via BB. He showed me super control and command of the strike zone, placing the ball where he wanted and forcing the hitters to hit his pitch. His FB was sitting at 91 (from the left side, keep in mind) and he broke off a couple of plus curveballs. He tired a bit in the 5th when his command began to slip; resulting in the first flyball given up and the aforementioned BB.
The one negative I noticed is that he was not particularly concerned with holding runners. After the BB in the 5th the runner stole 2B easily; a combination of Berry's lack of attention and Catcher, Michael Ohlman's inaccurate throw (wide right). In the 6th, it was more of the same. After BBing the 2nd batter of the inning, the runner stole 2B (a weak throw from Ohlman didn't help). And an ensuing wild pitch (fired straight to the back stop over the catcher and ump's heads) advanced the runner to 3rd. At this point, the defense broke down behind Berry. A routine grounder to 2B was bobbled, allowing the runner at 3rd to score and the batter to get to 1st safely. Then the previously mentioned outfield antics of Mssrs. Davis and Webb. But Berry failed to get rattled. Another flyout and a backwards K ended the threat and limited the damage to just 2 runs.
I'm not sure how much projection Berry has. So, while he looked as impressive as Zimmer on this particular night, I doubt Berry will ascend to similar heights as Zimmer has the potential to. But he does look to have enough 'stuff' to couple with his excellent control and command that he can make to the bigs. His role should he make it there, however, is TBD. 4th/5th starter ceiling. LOOGY floor. A valuable arm to have in the system either way.
Director of Player Personnel, John Stockstill was in attendance along with another Orioles scout. I walked over at one point and said hello and tried to engage him in some conversation regarding Gausman and Zimmer, but he wasn't particularly chatty. It was clearly noticeable that he was there with eyes on Nick Delmonico and, to a lesser extent, Tim Berry. I could see him sort of sit up and focus his attention with Nick was at bat. Good for Nick that that he had himself a very good game. So that's interesting.
Minor League games are full of ancillary activities. And the Blue Rocks maintain a stable of mascots and whatnot to entertain the crowds. Zimmer was visibily annoyed with the antics of one of the mascots during the start of the 2nd inning. The creature known as 'Reggie', some purplish Phillie Fanatic type of thing, was prancing around behind the Keys' 1st base coach. Zimmer was waiting for Reggie to clear the field, but Reggie was oblivious while doing his thing. Zimmer must have said to hell with it, got on the bump and the inning began with Reggie sprawled out behind the 1st base coach's box. A foul pop would have lead to an interesting situation. Stupid mascots. Except for Mr. Celery. He's cool in my book.