KANSAS CITY, Mo. — For much of this season, Kyle Zimmer, the Royals’ No. 1 pick in 2012, was providing numbers that frightened even the most loyal of Royals fans — a 1-6 record and a 5.98 ERA through 13 games.
But the Royals continued to stress that Zimmer, pitching for Class A Wilmington, was grading out well during his outings, and that his gaudy ERA was misleading.
Now it appears the Royals weren’t just in spin-control mode.
Zimmer has been dynamic in his last three starts, nearly tossing a no-hitter in one game, and striking out 13 hitters in another.
Royals general manager Dayton Moore was on hand for the near no-no June 29, when Zimmer carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and settled for a two-hit shutout. Moore traditionally makes it to each of his farm clubs at least once a summer.
“Zim is trying to develop all of his pitches, and so on any given night he might spend a little more on one pitch and that will make you more predictable,” Moore said. “That’s why you just can’t read into his numbers earlier this year. You have to rely on what you’re seeing or what your people are telling you.
“The night I saw him, he had all four pitches (fastball, slider, curve, change-up) working extremely well. It didn’t look like he was singling out just one pitch to work on that particular night. He was getting his breaking ball over in the count early, and his fastball was just electric.
“I’m very impressed with the way he is throwing.”
Zimmer, 21, is 3-8 on the season and has trimmed his ERA to 5.00. He has given up just four runs in his last 20 innings.
Moore also got to see 2011 top pick Bubba Starling for three games.
Starling, a 20-year-old outfielder playing at Class A Lexington (Ky.), is hitting just .218 this season but has eight homers and leads the team in RBIs with 40 and doubles with 14.
“Bubba was running well and swinging the bat well,” Moore said. “He had five hits in the three games I saw him and he didn’t strike out at all. And he was playing very well in center field.
“He’s right where we want him to be. He has a little over 500 at-bats now and he’s progressing well. He’s growing as a baseball player.”
NO-NO AND NO-NO
Within one week recently, two Royals farmhands tossed no-hitters.
Brooks Pounders, a 22-year-old right-hander who is 6 feet 5 and 270 pounds, threw a nine-inning no-hitter for Double-A Northwest Arkansas on June 27. He walked none and struck out six.
Pounders, acquired in 2011 from the Pirates for infielder Yamaico Navarro, is 4-4 with a 3.86 ERA this season.
On July 2, left-hander Daniel Stumpf threw a seven-inning no-hitter for Lexington. He walked one and struck out three.
Stumpf (6-1, 209 pounds), is 6-7 with a 3.09 ERA this season. He was picked in the ninth round of the 2012 draft.
After a so-so start, this year’s top pick, shortstop/third baseman Hunter Dozier, is hitting .309 with a .374 on-base percentage, and has 10 doubles, one homer and 13 RBIs for rookie league Idaho Falls.
THE NEXT DYSON?
While Starling and shortstop Raul Mondesi get much of the attention at Lexington, the Royals are keeping an eye on speedster Terrance Gore, who may be a Jarrod Dyson clone.
Gore is just 5-7, 159 pounds (Dyson is 5-9, 160). Gore is hitting only .228 with Lexington but has a .328 on-base percentage and already has 40 steals (caught just five times) in 79 games.
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email him at email@example.com.