Jan 29, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 27
How acquired: 2nd round pick, 2007 draft
2014 salary: $7.5 million
2013 Stats: 32 GS, 213.1 IP, 192 H, 81 R, 77 ER, 19 HR, 40 BB, 161 K, 1.088 WHIP, 19-9, 3.25 ERA, 3.51 FIP, 2.4 WAR
2014 storyline: By now, Zimmermann has established what he is: A consistent, big-time performer who can be counted on to give the Nationals a chance to win nearly every time he takes the mound. There will be some added emphasis on this season, though, because the right-hander has an opportunity to catapult himself into a small class of elite major-league starters and thus set himself up for a monstrous payday (either via a long-term extension with the Nationals or as a free agent following the 2015 season).
Best-case scenario: Building off his first career All-Star showing last season, Zimmermann takes thing up another notch. He not only leads the league with 20-plus wins and a 2.25 ERA, he also tops all NL starters with 235 innings pitched. He’s selected as the NL’s starting pitcher for the All-Star Game in Minnesota, then adds some major hardware to his mantel with his first Cy Young Award come November. Along the way, he agrees to a 7-year, $150 million extension with the Nationals.
Worst-case scenario: Even if he’s sub-par, Zimmermann should at the very least remain an above-average, major-league starter. He could be victimized by poor run support, resulting in an 8-12 record despite a respectable, 3.75 ERA. And he still takes the ball every fifth day, aside from a short DL stint due to a nagging injury.
Most-likely scenario: It’s pretty easy to speculate what Zimmermann will be this season: The same guy he’s been the last three seasons. Assuming even moderate run support, he’s good for 15-to-18 wins, an ERA right around the 3.00 mark, 32 starts and 200 innings. Whether he agrees to that contract extension with the Nats yet … well, that’s still too tough to figure out.
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