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Roster preview: Ryan Zimmerman

Jan 17, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT

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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.

  1. originalnatsfan - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:50 AM

    Ryan Zimmerman has been my favorite Nat since his 2005 callup. I have faith that he will return to his pre-injury form and have a stellar year.

  2. nats128 - Jan 17, 2014 at 9:55 AM

    Lets hope there is a best case scenario here and Ryan starts looking like a All Star again. My other hope is no more excuses. Besides HenRod, nobody has received more chatter on what’s going on with a player’s mental condition.

    This is Zimmerman’s opportunity to prove himself and quiet his critics. If he can improve his defense back to GG quality, it may be Werth moving to 1st base next year and not Ryan.

    • dgourds - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:41 AM

      Great point on the possible Werth move to first. That would really open up the possibilty to adding another huge bat to the line up. It would be great if Zimm can overcome his defensive issues and stay at 3rd. We’ll see.

      • nats128 - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:12 AM

        While I’d love to take credit for that, it’s not my idea. I think Ghost floated this last year as a possible scenario. As they say, Ryan holds the key.

        Moving Rendon to 3rd and Ryan to 1st just doesn’t give a net gain as you then need a new 2nd baseman unless you leave Rendon at 2nd and get Chase Headley.

        Other scenario is Werth to 1st and get a big corner OF bat. That’s intriguing.

        Both scenarios require adding a new player.

  3. scnatsfan - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:16 AM

    If RZ was a free agent we’d sign him in a heartbeat for his contract and the board would be giddy about it

  4. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:23 AM

    I consider him capable of producing at Braun/Wright level (heck his own 2009/10 levels). Wish him the best!

    Read Boswell’s article also. JV and Felix are fair comparisons. JV and Felix had earned few Cy Young votes and they were younger. As far as I can recall, neither came with any injury history. So I think 5/$80 MM is a fair price for JZ.

    He has written up a nice plan for Nationals FO.

  5. Section 222 - Jan 17, 2014 at 10:49 AM

    Best case MVP, GG, and All Star? Well, I guess you could say that about ALR too. And Werth, and Desmond. But best case has to be based at least a little on reality, right? I think best case for Zim defensively is to get out of the cellar and be better than average. He’s never going to be a GG’er again — his range is decreased and his arm, while hopefully improved, is not a rocket. A big tell will be his positioning. Will Williams let him get away with playing several steps closer to the plate than most 3B? If Zim retreats to a more normal depth, fewer balls will get by him. And as long as he can throw from there…

    I have no complaints about his offense. He’s not going to be a MVP quality hitter, but I think we can rely on him to be solid and productive. His power during September was very encouraging.

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:01 AM

      In 2009,’10, and ’12, RZ got MVP votes. I think he can do it again but that will rely some on how others perform.

    • zmunchkin - Jan 17, 2014 at 1:15 PM

      Section 222, WRT your comment I think best case for Zim defensively is to get out of the cellar and be better than average, you must have been watching a different RZ than I was the last third of the season. 

      And permit me to paraphrase something I wrote a while back on the WaPo NJ regarding Ryan’s defense. This also provides some data to support Mark’s comment about the end of the season. 

      WRT Zimm’s throwing errors the data support the argument that the problem was pretty much resolved at the end of the year. Depending on the site you believe, he had either 21 or 22 errors in 2013, of which 16 were throwing errors. Starting August 9 (the date that the Nats turned their season around), they went 32-16 and Zimm had a total of only 3 throwing errors. And two of those were the first half of August and one was very early September. 

      So I think it is fair to say that his throwing problems are resolved. His range has never been an issue. So he may very well will be, barring injury, a GG candidate in 2014. 

      • Section 222 - Jan 18, 2014 at 11:26 PM

        Sorry, but we’ll have to just agree to disagree on this. Zim’s range *was* an issue last year. He was playing very shallow for most of the year, trying to avoid long throws. And so his range was very much reduced. “Past a diving Zimmerman” became an oft heard refrain. He was just missing a lot of balls down the line or in the hole that he used to get to in 2009 and before.

        I’m glad you are confident that his throwing problems are in the past, but we’ve heard that so many times before, not just this year but in years past, that I don’t know why you’d take it at face value. In years past, he was revamping his throwing motion to fix his problems. And this year, after surgery on this shoulder, he was going to be ready by spring training, then by Opening Day, then by June 1, then by the end of June. He began to show improvement by the end of the year I admit. But three throwing errors in two months is not a great record. It’s not terrible, like the first three months of the season, but it’s certainly not good enough to suggest that he is back to normal.

        Until Zim can play a normal depth at third, and routinely make a rocket throw across the diamond after making a diving stop down the line, he’s not a league average third baseman, much less a gold glover. We’ll see if he’s up to that level this year. I certainly hope so but I’m not holding my breath.

  6. micksback1 - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:05 AM

    Nats know Zim needs rest during the season, in fact I believe the plan last year was to have Rendon spell Zim during the season howver Espi’s implosion changed those plans. Nats should do with Zim what they are going to do with the outfield, with Mclouth and Harriston they can platoon and keep those players fresh. They need to keep Zim fresh. Think about it, Zim is another year older, perhaps Rendon could platoon at 3rd? If by some long shot Espi ever hits this problem could be solved. Nevertheless, Nats need to platoon Zim

    • Section 222 - Jan 17, 2014 at 12:23 PM

      But Rendon is a RH batter. Zim is never going to be “platooned.” Maybe he gets rested occasionally, but a platoon? Nah. He’s one of our best hitters.

  7. TimDz - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:10 AM

    Jordan Zimmerman signed a two year extension for 24 million…..

    • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      Yes, read that on MLBTR. Wish it was an extension.

      • nats128 - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:21 AM

        Nats announced it on Twitter. I don’t think it’s a 2 year extension rather just buying out his last 2 years of arb eligibility.

      • Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:23 AM

        yeah, I wouldn’t call it an extension either. Like you said, a five-year extension would have been better.

    • nats128 - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:17 AM

      You beat me to it! Wish it was 5 year.

  8. Faraz Shaikh - Jan 17, 2014 at 11:25 AM

    Storen gets $3.45 MM, more than I hoped.

Archives

NL EAST STANDINGS

W L GB
x-WASHINGTON 91 64 --
ATLANTA 76 80 15.5
NEW YORK 76 80 15.5
MIAMI 74 81 17.0
PHILADELPHIA 71 85 20.5
x-Clinched NL East title
Through Monday's games

NL PLAYOFFS STANDINGS

W L GB WCGB
x-WASHINGTON (3) 91 64 --
y-LOS ANGELES 89 68 3.0
y-ST. LOUIS 88 69 4.0
-------------------------
PITTSBURGH 85 71 --
SAN FRANCISCO 85 71 --
MILWAUKEE 80 76 5.0
x-Clinched division title
y-Clinched playoff berth
Through Monday's games

UPCOMING SCHEDULE
TUE: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
WED: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
THU: Mets at Nats, 7:05 p.m.
FRI: Marlins at Nats (DH), 1:05 p.m., 7:05 p.m.
SAT: Marlins at Nats, 4:05 p.m.
SUN: Marlins at Nats, 1:35 p.m.
(End of regular season)
MON: OFF
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