With their league-worst farm system, the Milwaukee Brewers desperately needed to hit a home run in last week’s 2020 MLB Draft. After getting tremendous value with their first-round selection, UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell on day one, the Brewers might have landed another day one talent at No. 53 last Thursday in Miami shortstop, Freddy Zamora.
In the pre-draft rankings, Zamora checked-in at No. 100 and No. 74 respectively on MLB Pipeline and Baseball America’s big boards.
I spoke with Miami Hurricanes head coach, Gino DiMare on Wednesday afternoon, and Coach DiMare believes that had it not been for Zamora’s unfortunate season-ending ACL injury, Zamora would have not only been ranked much higher on draft boards, but he could have had a chance to go in the first round.
“It’s a shame that he didn’t get a chance to play a full year,” DiMare said. “If he hid play a full year, and he’s healthy, honestly I think he’s a first-rounder. I think he’s one of the top shortstops, if not the best shortstop in the country.”
Zamora — who was primed for a big junior season — collided with another Hurricane’s player while running up the first baseline during practice, just days away from Miami’s season-opener.
It’s not just DiMare who feels this way. When speaking with Central Michigan skipper Jordan Bischel on Tuesday about fellow Milwaukee draft pick Zavier Warren, Bischel had high praise for Zamora.
“We had a chance to play Miami in the regional last year, and on a good day [Freddy] Zamora is as good of a shortstop as you will ever see,” Bischel said. “I know the numbers weren’t always there, but the way he played against us, my god. That kid’s got some ability, and that’s exciting for the Brewers.”
Coach DiMare agreed with Bischel’s evaluation.
“I would agree with him [Coach Bischel],” DiMare said. “When Freddy is on, he’s probably as good as anyone. There’s a lot of times when you leave the park, and you just say to yourself, ‘he’s the best player on the field’.”
Zamora hit .300 with 24 doubles, seven home runs, 74 RBIs and 33 stolen bases in 104 games, all starts, in his first two seasons at Miami. He skipped the Cape Cod League this past summer in favor of a trip to his native Nicaragua, in an effort to complete the process of becoming a United States citizen.
Despite missing the opportunity to showcase his talents in the famed Cape Cod League, Coach DiMare said that Zamora arrived on campus this fall ready to work, and hopefully continue to build his draft stock.
According to MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy, Zamora was suspended for the Hurricanes’ opening series for skipping class. Coach DiMare said that like many young ballplayers, Zamora had some maturing to do, but he doesn’t see that being an issue for Zamora moving forward.
“Just being a full-time ballplayer,” will benefit Zamora according to Coach DiMare. “No distractions, no school, no outside factors taking away from anything,” DiMare said. “With him just being a full-time ballplayer, I think you’re going to see big strides.”
We know Zamora can hit. His smooth, short-to-the-ball swing produces plenty of extra-base pop, the hit tool is strong, and he’s tough to strikeout. But despite making more errors than you would like to see during his time at Miami, Zamora’s defensive profile should stick at the next level.
He’s got a plus arm and great body control at shortstop. Coach DiMare attributed his errors during his first two seasons with the ‘Canes to a lack of focus, not a lack of ability, and stressed that he looked strong in the fall and would have upped his defensive profile had he gotten the chance to play in 2020.
As far as the ACL injury is concerned, Zamora is three months into his projected 11-month recovery, and Coach DiMare said that he’s gotten rave reviews from Miami’s training staff regarding Zamora’s recovery thus far.
“He’s been outstanding,” DiMare said. “He brings great effort to every workout, and he’s coming along great.”
The Brewers don’t seem to be too concerned with the long-term impacts of the injury either. Brewers scouting director Tod Johnson had this to say to the media last week, “We feel like if the injury isn’t something that’s going to impact them significantly long-term,” said Johnson. “We’re happy with the medical prognosis and the way it was done and where they are in their rehab and that kind of stuff, then we’re comfortable taking on that risk and potentially getting a guy that would have gone at least somewhat higher in the Draft. In Freddy’s case specifically, I think he would have definitely gone at least some number of picks higher if he hadn’t been hurt there.”
By all indications, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that if Zamora’s rehab continues on its current course, that the Brewers might have landed their shortstop of the future last week. In addition to his complete package on the field, DiMare said the Zamora has a high baseball IQ that helps him put it all together.
“He’s always the smartest guy on the field,” DiMare said. “Whether it’s knowing when to lay down a bunt, reading balls in the dirt defensively, or just knowing when to steal a base, he’s just a clutch player.”
DiMare said that Zamora has a clutch factor that he’s seen very rarely during his two-plus decades as a part of the Hurricanes’ coaching staff.
“As a coach, you get all kinds of players, but the ones that stick out in my mind are the guys that you want up with the game on the line. You want the bat in their hands, you want the ball hit to them, and I would say that Freddy is that type of player. He’s just a clutch player.”
“Those guys don’t grow on trees,” DiMare said. “We’ve had a lot of talented players come through this program.”
For now, the talented Miami shortstop focuses on his recovery, but Zamora should be near — if not completely — recovered from his ACL injury when affiliates report to camp next February.