The COVID-19 pandemic changed the world revolving around Major League Baseball including the prospects and rising talent looking to advance through the rankings. The Houston Astros, who lost their first two picks in the 2020 MLB Draft due to the sign stealing scandal, signed a pool of prospects within the coming days after the Draft. These players who were signed were in the running to get drafted until MLB shortened the Draft to only five rounds from its normal 40. Among those signings was University of Missouri Tiger, Peter Zimmermann.
While a journey man in a college aspect, Zimmermann stands at 23-years-old and hopeful to hit the field for live action for the first time since March of 2020. The towering right-hander played his freshman year at St. Louis University, his hometown, before transferring to San Jacinto Community College in the Houston area, and then finishing it up with his junior and senior seasons at Mizzou. Some high school prospects have still not played since their junior years due to cancellations of their senior and MiLB seasons.
Zimmermann’s college career ended as a pinch hitter in his final plate appearance, and right when he touched first base after a walk, he was replaced with a pinch runner. His last collegiate game came on Mar. 11 against Northern Illinois, that ended on a walk off for Mizzou in extra innings. Zimmermann had been nursing a back injury and explained how surreal the days after were, as none of the players or coaches knew what would happen next. Him and his teammates found out that their season had ended in the Chicago O’Hare International Airport waiting for a flight for Tuscaloosa, Ala.
While joining the franchise during a pandemic, what has baseball been like for Astros prospect Peter Zimmermann?
Zimmermann, like many other collegiate athletes, was assuming he would be given another year of eligibility after the spread of COVID-19 shut down the sports world, but he knew that he had the opportunity to play professional baseball.
“Mizzou was becoming my fallback as much as I loved it,” Zimmermann explained. “I was 23-years-old and I had the opportunity to go pro.”
There were three advantages of leaving school for professional baseball at the time for Zimmermann: he had the ability to almost choose where he wanted to play after not being drafted, he would make more money by doing so and it was the smallest pool of players entering professional baseball in a long time. While the $20,000 signing isn’t a life changing experience in regards to that he wouldn’t ever have to work again, Zimmermann made about $18,000 more than if he stayed at Mizzou for a fifth year.
Before signing with the Astros, Zimmermann had been taking live at bats in St. Louis and playing in a summer league for colligate players and prospects. Throughout that time, he hadn’t had the opportunity to work out with Houston, so he had to look to stay in shape through these leagues, showcases, and at training facilities in his hometown. Zimmermann signed with the Astros on June 18, 2020.
In October, the Astros brought down around 70 or more prospects to their training facilities in West Palm Beach, Fla. Zimmermann, among the prospects, worked out at the facilities until the end of early November. After that, most of the guys including Zimmermann went back to their respected homes, and for the St. Louis native, he has been working out and training at Premier Pitching Performance in Lake St. Louis. The goal of this extended time off from baseball has been conditioning and taking reps in the cages with Kevin Graham Sr., father of University of Mississippi standout Kevin Graham.
The last few weeks, the Astros prospect has been rehabbing a wrist injury in the warm weather in West Palm Beach. MLB allowed teams to bring down a few players for the ability to rehab before Major League Spring Training begins.
“I can get my training done in a nice environment,” Zimmermann said. “I’ve been blessed to be down here during this time.”
While his hometown of St. Louis is covered in snow, Zimmermann has been working back to full strength in the 70 degree winter of Florida. At the moment, the beginning of Minor League Spring Training all depends on how the Major League one plays out. If all runs smoothly, Zimmermann, among others, will be back in West Palm Beach at the beginning of April. The right-hander has loved his time at the facilities, as the wrist doctor has been increasingly helping his progression.
“We are prepping for April,” Zimmermann explained. “I truly do not know the whole plan. I just need to get to Spring Training, play, perform and see where they put me. The goal right now is to get healthy after my wrist injury that I got work done on, and it is going very well.”
The timetable is unknown and falls on the hands of how the Major League Spring Training shakes out. The communication between prospects and coaches looks to be in a tough spot as both sides are battling the issues caused by the pandemic.
Zimmermann has been working out at first base and left field, but he does not care where the team puts him; he will adjust to where the team sees him most fit and help the team anyway he can. He is eager to see the field once again.
Connections to Houston
While growing up a St. Louis Cardinals fan, Zimmermann remembers the days of the 2004-2006 close matchups that the Cardinals had with the Astros. The rivalry was there, but it started to fade after the Astros joined the American League; the St. Louis native became a fan of the new, branded look and the careers of Jose Altuve and others.
“I really liked guys like Altuve,” Zimmermann said. “How can you not be; he is an electric player.”
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He also talked about how he loved the players who had ties to the Astros in Carlos Beltran and also Lance Berkman, who helped win a World Series for the Cardinals in 2011.
“I started rooting for the Astros,” Zimmermann explained. “And when I went to San Jac, it was pretty cool to see what that team did after what the city went through.”
The Astros prospect went into detail about how impactful it was to see the fans stick with their team after going through Hurricane Harvey. Zimmermann was in Houston at San Jacinto during that time, and he described watching the ending of Game 7 in a bar in downtown Houston as “one of the funnest 45 minutes of his life.”
Zimmermann and the Mizzou Tigers competed in the Shriners Hospital for Children College Classic in 2020, where he was awarded as an All-Tournament Team member after slashing .500 with one home run and four total RBI through three games.
“I loved the atmosphere of Minute Maid Park,” Zimmermann praised. “I have never been able to see a baseball better than in that stadium. It was an incredible experience, and the week before, I was at the Corpus Christi Hooks stadium.”
The experience is there for Zimmermann, and the ability to know how the ballparks of his possible future feel like is a great signal toward success. Zimmermann has kept up with the other players in his class as well and has nothing but praise for the future of prospect Zach Daniels.
Peter Zimmermann, 23, is approaching Minor League Spring Training come April, and while this will be his first live baseball in over a year, we can expect a player of high baseball IQ with a heavy bat and even greater passion for the game. In a changing game, one thing has stayed the same for Zimmermann; he is a team player above all else. When asked about how to bounce back after not playing for a long period of time, Zimmermann brought in the aspects of working off the mistakes and using the data and numbers to improve your game.
“I do not truly know what the next couple weeks hold,” Zimmermann said. “But once we start playing, it just becomes getting your feel, doing the right things, and you have to find a way to work harder.”