Royals draft RHP Kyle Zimmer at No. 5

The Royals selected exactly who they were targeting in
Monday’s MLB First-Year Player Draft when they selected right-hander Kyle
Zimmer from the University of San Francisco with the fifth overall selection.

Now the clock starts ticking as to just how soon Zimmer, 20, can get to the big
leagues to help the Royals’ spotty rotation.

“In terms of talent, he’s ready now,” Royals director of scouting Lonnie
Goldberg said. “But, of course, there’s some things all young pitchers
have to learn in order to get to the big leagues.

“But we think, realistically, it could be about two years.”

First, the Royals will need to sign Zimmer, who is represented by Mark Pieper, also
the agent for Justin Verlander. But Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore
didn’t appear concerned.

“Signability is always something you have in the back of your mind,”
Moore said. “But we feel confident about this. We will pay what we think
is fair. We certainly don’t overpay for talent.”

With Major League Baseball’s new slotting system, the Royals will have up to
$3.5 million to sign Zimmer without a penalty (most likely a levy).

Zimmer also doesn’t think money would be a factor and seemed anxious to start
playing in the Royals system.

“I don’t know a great deal about the Royals,” Zimmer said in a
teleconference call. “But I will learn fast. I do know it’s a very
prestigious organization with a great history.

“I’m very excited.”

So were Zimmer’s parents, Eric and Cathy, who were shown live on MLB.TV nearly
jumping out of their chairs when commissioner Bud Selig announced their son had
been picked by the Royals.

The Zimmer family certainly is athletic. Eric Zimmer was an outfielder at the
University of California-San Diego, and Cathy was a hurdler at San Diego State.
Kyle’s younger brother, Bradley, was a freshman and teammate this past season
at San Francisco after being drafted out of high school by the Chicago Cubs.

“But I’m the best athlete,” Kyle Zimmer said, somewhat jokingly.
“Well, at least I’d like to think I am.”

Zimmer will get no argument from the Royals, who said he was their first choice
all along.

“We just kept hoping he’d still be on the board when it came to
us,” Goldberg said.

Zimmer, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, throws consistently in the 96-97 mph range.
His curve, an over-the-top hammer, was considered by many scouts as the best in
college baseball. He also throws a change-up and a slider.

“I feel like I can command all my pitches,” Zimmer said. “But my
curve is my out pitch.”

Actually, being a pitcher was a bit of an afterthought for Zimmer until three
years ago. He was a third baseman in high school in La Jolla, Calif.

When Zimmer arrived at USF as a third baseman, that position was blocked
temporarily by Stephen Yarrow, who now is in the San Francisco Giants
organization. The USF coaching staff suggested Zimmer try pitching. He didn’t
object.

“I had nothing to lose,” he said.

Without knowing any real mechanics of pitching, Zimmer still began effortlessly
topping the 90-mph mark on the radar gun.

As a freshman, though, Zimmer made only five appearances. Then last season,
Zimmer went 6-5 with a 3.753 ERA.  This
year, Zimmer was 5-3 with a 2.85 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings.

Now, Zimmer will be on the fast track to the big leagues.

“When I started pitching,” he said, “I never thought this day
would ever come. But I’m very glad I made the switch to pitcher.”

Goldberg suggested Zimmer will remind fans of Giants right-hander Matt Cain or
right-hander Roy Oswalt, recently signed by Texas.

“Probably more like Cain,” Goldberg said. “Kyle is a big guy,
like him. Bigger than Oswalt.”

The Royals were sold not only on Zimmer’s physical skills, but also on his
mental makeup.

“He’s a hard worker,” Goldberg said. “I mean, such a hard-worker
we’re going to have to pull him back a little at times I think.”

Zimmer, who worked through a minor hamstring strain recently, also has gained
the reputation as having a mean streak.

“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” Zimmer said. “I think when I get on the
mound, I’m pretty competitive. Off the field, I don’t think I’m like that.

“But on the mound, yeah, I’m competitive. I have an animalistic
approach.”