Jan 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 29
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2005 draft
2014 salary: $14 million
2013 Stats: 147 G, 633 PA, 84 R, 156 H, 26 2B, 2 3B, 26 HR, 79 RBI, 6 SB, 60 BB, 133 SO, .275 AVG, .344 OBP, .465 SLG, .809 OPS, 21 E, -14.0 UZR, 3.0 WAR
2014 storyline: Zimmerman would just as soon forget his 2013 season, especially a first half in which he struggled to hit for power and lost all ability to make routine throws across the diamond. He battled through it all, though, and wound up going on a tear in September to finish with offensive numbers typical of his career. He also started making throws with few problems, thanks to a right shoulder that was finally 100 percent following offseason surgery.
Zimmerman will report to Viera feeling as confident about his shoulder as he’s been in years, but until he starts making those throws with no hiccups, there will likely be some sliver of doubt from plenty of corners of the baseball world. Few players on the Nationals roster need to get off to a strong start as much as Zimmerman, who has been known to dig himself out of offensive holes but would much rather put up big April numbers and get things off on the right foot.
Best-case scenario: Healthy and productive from Day One, Zimmerman enjoys the best all-around season of his career. He hits .310 with 35 homers and 110 RBI, earns his second All-Star selection and re-establishes himself as the best defensive third baseman in the game, putting to rest (for now) any talk of a shift across the diamond in 2015. Zimmerman is the best player on a Nats team that wins the NL East, and he’s rewarded for it with the NL MVP award.
Worst-case scenario: Zimmerman’s first throw of 2014 ends up down the right-field corner, and just like that everyone’s worst fears are realized. He battles for months to get things under control but once and for all confirms he’ll need to move to first base in 2015. He also tweaks a muscle in late-April, tries to play through the pain unsuccessfully and eventually lands on the DL for a prolonged stint. He comes back strong offensively to finish the season with respectable numbers (20 homers, 70 RBI) but he once again fails to live up to the billing as one of the best players in the game.
Most-likely scenario: Zimmerman does stay healthy, and he is much-improved in the field (though he still commits 15 errors). He has a typical Ryan Zimmerman year at the plate (25 homers, 90 RBI), though not All-Star caliber. In the end, he remains a key member of a talented lineup that helps lead the Nationals back to the postseason. With Adam LaRoche set to become a free agent over the winter, the Nats give Zim a chance to make 15 starts at first base as a tune-up for 2015, when he makes the position switch for good.
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