Zimmer 'anxious' to pitch for the Royals

Zimmer 'anxious' to pitch for the Royals

Published Jun. 7, 2012 1:15 p.m. ET

If Royals fans need a reason to endear themselves to the team's first-round pick, right-hander Kyle Zimmer, they already have one: Zimmer was so anxious to play ball he signed a deal Thursday with the Royals, just three days after being drafted.

Zimmer, the fifth overall pick of Monday's draft, was in Kansas City to take his physical exam and reportedly signed for $3 million, about $500,000 less than the slotted $3.5 million.

"He's just very anxious to play," said Royals assistant general manager of scouting and player development J.J. Picollo.

"The one thing we told him was that we were hoping to get a deal done very soon and he told us 'So am I. I don't want to miss the summer.' He wanted to get it done and get playing."

Zimmer likely will be assigned immediately to Arizona for extended spring ball.

"I'm ready to go out there and compete and get on the mound again," Zimmer said. "I didn't know exactly how (negotiations) would play out. It's been a fast process, so I haven't had a chance to sit back and reflect on it all yet."

Zimmer said he had no problem with starting off in extended spring, and then being assigned to Class A Kane County.

"Whatever they think is best," he said. "I'm ready."

"We would probably give him a couple of starts down there," Picollo said. "There are a couple of minor injury situations with him that need to be addressed. He had the hamstring strain a few weeks ago and as he was recovering from that, he tweaked his right groin. Nothing major at all.

"But we would probably treat him like a rehab case in Arizona and give him 7-10 days to recover and then get him a couple of starts."

After that, the Royals expect to assign Zimmer, from the University of San Francisco, to either rookie short-season ball in Idaho Falls or to Class A Kane County (Ill.).

"We don't think Kane County is too big of a leap for him at all," Picollo said. "He's a bright kid and very mature for his age. He's only 20 but his maturity level is quite a bit higher. There's a strong belief he's ready to jump right in (to Class A)."

Though Zimmer was the Royals' marquee pick in the draft, the Royals also are anxious for several other picks to get a taste of pro ball.

One such pick is shortstop Kenny Diekroeger, the Royals' fourth-round pick from Stanford. Diekroeger is 6 feet 2, 200 pounds, hits right handed, and is an athletic shortstop with great range.

Diekroeger hit .356 as a freshman at Stanford but tapered off the rest of his career offensively. He hit a pedestrian .269 this season with two homers and 30 RBIs.

"He really didn't have the type of productivity in college you'd be hoping to see," Picollo said. "But there's something there to this kid. Our scouts see potential because of all of his skills.

"For someone of his skill level, we figured he'd be gone in the second or third round. When he fell to us in the fourth round, we felt we had to take him. We think we got a steal there."

Another player to watch is fifth-round pick Chad Johnson, a high school catcher from Galesburg, Illinois. Johnson, 6 feet 1, 175 pounds, hits left-handed with tremendous defensive skills. The Royals have compared him defensively to former Royals catcher Brent Mayne.

Johnson, though, may turn out far better offensively than Mayne. Johnson led his high school team in home runs (7), doubles (14) and RBIs (38).

"He's a kid we've watched for a couple of years and really like," Picollo said. "Big upside there."

Johnson has signed a letter of intent to Illinois State but the Royals are hopeful to get him in the mix right away.

"I’m excited (to get drafted)," Johnson told the Galesburg Register-Mail. "I’ve been working for this my whole life and it’s been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid. It’s a long shot for a kid to get drafted. I’m kind of speechless right now. I’m just so happy."

Johnson was one of three catchers the Royals drafted. They also took four infielders, nine outfielders and 24 pitchers.

The Royals already have signed several selections, including third-round pick Colin Rodgers, a left-hander from Parkview Baptist High School in Baton Rouge, La.