The Kansas City Royals took extra precaution with 2012 first-round pick Kyle Zimmer on Wednesday, pulling him from his latest start after just two innings because of stiffness in his right forearm despite the fact that his velocity remained in tact and he had retired all six batters he had faced, writes Paul Grathoff of The Kansas City Star.
Zimmer got off to a rough start to the season, despite pitching at the extremely pitcher-friendly High-A Wilmington. But some mechanical adjustments turned things around for Zimmer and he was promoted to Double-A almost a month ago. Since then, he's been absolutely dominant, posting a 1.93 ERA and a 2.83 FIP while striking out 13 batters per nine innings. He was good on Wednesday night as well, but the Royals aren't going to take any chances with their top pitching prospect, especially as he enters their plans for next season.
The Royals have not said how long Zimmer will be out or if he will miss any starts at all, but you'd have to imagine they'd like to get him back on the mound to build up some more innings this year. Zimmer would still need to throw about 20 more innings to get to the total he threw last year between college and the pros, and the Royals would likely want him to throw another 15-20 innings more than that to help him build up stamina for a transition to the majors last season. Assuming the forearm stiffness isn't a lingering issue, the Royals would likely want Zimmer to get to around 130 innings this season so he can throw around 150 next year between Triple-A and the majors.
The Houston Astros are having similar internal discussions about 2013 top overall pick Mark Appel, whom they have already decided to shut down after two more starts, writes Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.
Appel hasn't been as dominant as some might have expected since turning pro, with a 4.70 ERA in the Midwest League, although his 3.68 FIP would suggest he's been slightly better than that. McTaggart points out that Appel has thrown 134 1/3 innings this season and the Astros believe he may be tiring, which means that the only reason to give him two more starts would be to have him build up his innings total for the future. The Astros, under their new management team, have shown a conservative approach to handling their pitchers, so they must have confidence that Appel is not compromising his mechanics as he tires, or else sending him out there for two more starts would be an unnecessary risk.
Still, there's something to be said for learning to pitch without your best stuff, which at this point in the season, Appel likely hasn't had for a little while. Assuming he's fine, medically, to which there have been no indications otherwise, these last two starts could be a good learning opportunity. This news does, however, put an end to the speculation that Appel could make a few major league starts in September for the hapless Astros, as was speculated during the draft.