USF baseball coach Nino Giarratano has become accustomed to fielding questions from an ever-lengthening line of representatives from Major League Baseball teams.
There are analysts, directors and scouts, and they all want to know about Bradley Zimmer, the Dons' uber-talented junior center fielder who is a top prospect in this year's MLB draft.
"I get asked every day, 'What kind of person is [Zimmer]? How hard does he work? What kind of leader is he?'" Giarratano said. "And I tell them the truth. He works hard, he never gets too bent out of shape about anything, and he's a great leader. He's of the caliber of the best players we've had in the 15 years I've been coaching at USF."
That's high praise indeed from Giarratano, who in the past 10 seasons has seen 29 of his players selected in the draft. That includes Zimmer's older brother, Kyle, a power pitcher who was the No. 5 overall pick in 2012.
Zimmer is a completely different player than Kyle, but they are bonded by supreme talent. Like Kyle, the 6-foot-6, 205-pound Bradley Zimmer is projected to go in the first round. Scouts and analysts rave about his fluid left-handed swing. He is frequently referred to as a five-tool player.
Coming out of La Jolla High School in San Diego, Zimmer was a heralded prospect whom many predicted would bypass college and go straight to the minors in 2011. But a late injury damaged his draft stock, and Zimmer slipped to the 24th round, where he was picked by the Chicago Cubs.
He decided to attend USF, and under the direction of Giarratano's coaching staff, Zimmer has thrived. He's learned how to break down opposing pitchers and developed more confidence at the plate. He's packed 25 pounds of muscle onto his frame.
"I think he developed work habits as a person, too," said Giarratano.
This past summer, Zimmer was one of 24 players selected to represent Team USA's collegiate national team. During a one-month span that included a six-game tour of Japan, he played in 21 of 23 games (starting 20), and hit .300 while swiping a team-high 11 bases.
"Once you make that USA team, you're playing with the best in the country, and you find out that you're capable of playing at that level," said Giarratano. "You gain confidence."
Zimmer started all 54 games for USF in '14 and finished with a .368 batting average, seven home runs, 31 RBIs and 21 stolen bases. He was named to the Golden Spikes 30-man watch list, an award given each year to the best amateur player in America
"He's one of the best position players in the collegiate game," Giarratano said. "He deserves to be taken as one of the top position players in the draft. He'll play for a long time."
The 2014 draft begins on Thursday at 4 p.m.