Royal Replacement: Zimmer in for Shields in 2015?

When the Kansas City Royals’ surprise season finally ends, even with the possibility of champagne showers and a major parade, James Shields will likely sign with a new team. The void he will leave in the Royals’ starting rotation could soon be filled by one of the top prospects in baseball.

Listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Kyle Zimmer is the same height and weight as “Big Game” James. Before the 2014 season, Zimmer was ranked the No. 23 prospect by Baseball America, the No. 25 prospect by MLB.com and was 34th on Baseball Prospectus’ list of the top prospects in baseball. While there was some disagreement about where exactly he ranked, the acknowledged belief is he has a bright future in the game.

Feb 24, 2014; Surprise, AZ, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Kyle Zimmer poses for a portrait during photo day at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Zimmer, who should contribute for the Royals in 2015, is the replacement for Shields. He obviously won’t be an ace like Shields right away, but given time, Zimmer can give Kansas City what Shields has the last two seasons.

This last season, though, was rough for Zimmer. He suffered two setbacks—bicep tendinitis and a lat injury—before making his way back at the end of the season. He finished the year with a brief stint at Rookie Ball before joining Triple-A Omaha for the playoffs.

It appears Zimmer has recovered well from both injuries. In his most recent start for the Peoria Javelinas of the Arizona Fall League, Zimmer threw five scoreless innings, surrendered just two hits, one walk and struck out 11. This dominant start can only add to the smiles of Royals Nation this fall.

In his pitching repertoire, Zimmer features a fastball that hits 96 MPH, a slider, curveball and changeup.

With the inevitable departure of Shields this offseason, Royals fans should be thankful that there is a replacement in house. Zimmer has a chance to be a key part of the 2015 Royals.

Plus, Zimmer fits in with the youthful bunch that is shocking the baseball world this postseason with their small ball, clutch hitting and superb defense.

Zimmer, the No. 5 pick in the 2012 Draft, is just 23. Shields will turn 33 this offseason. Zimmer is under team control for the foreseeable future. Shields is expected to demand a large, lucrative contract, one the Royals cannot afford. As much as the Royals would love to retain Shields, it won’t happen. Zimmer is the future, not Shields.

Soon enough Zimmer will join the rotation in Kansas City—one that Shields helped revitalize with a winning culture.

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