Key Statistics: Ryan Zimmerman is consistently called one of the best and yet most underrated third basemen in the game. Nothing could be more telling of that than his batting line this year:
142 G, 161 H, 85 R, 25 HR, 85 RBI, 4 SB, .307 BA, .899 OPS
Out of the 5 basic fantasy categories, he definitely shines in terms of homers and average, but runs scored, RBI and stolen base numbers are not entirely impressive. However, looking deeper at his metrics, Zimm Zimm ranked 13th in OBP, 18th in slugging and16th in the majors in OPS. Amongst third basemen, he’s even better, ranking first in OBP, 2nd in slugging and 2nd in OPS (to Adrian Beltre, in both instances).
A knock on Zimmerman’s 2010 season was his seeming lack of production in terms of runs scored and RBI. But if you look at a few players with and OPS around him, you’ll see that they all had plenty more opportunities hitting with men on base than Zimm did.
Zimmerman: 283 PA with men on
David Ortiz (.899 OPS): 324 PA
Adrian Gonzalez (.904 OPS): 319 PA
Adam Dunn (.892 OPS): 314 PA
Added to this is that with men on, Zimmerman hit .335. Hopefully next year, with more help in front of him – a better year from a less distracted Nyjer Morgan, highly touted prospects Danny Espinosa and Ian Desmond – Zimmerman will be able to capitalize on those chances.
Skeptics Say: Despite a career .839 OPS, Zimmerman has only had two seasons of over 100 RBI and only two seasons scoring above 95 runs. While he has hit at least 20 home runs 4 times, Zimmerman hasn’t produced at the same clip (fantasy-wise, anyway) as his similarly-touted third base contemporaries. As I will get to in the peer comparison section, Zimmerman is often compared with the David Wrights, Alex Rodriguezs and Evan Longorias of the world, but has really only turned in two seasons that could compare to what has become the norm for other elite third basemen in the game.
Peer Comparison: Zimmerman is in the conversation with those three guys – Wright, A-Rod and Longoria – but will he be able to produce like David Wright’s 2008 season (115 R, 33 HR, 124 RBI, .302 BA, .924 OPS) or Evan Longoria’s 2009 season (110 R, 33 HR, 113 RBI, .281 BA, .889 OPS) or any of A-Rod’s superb seasons (take your pick). Zimm’s 2009 had him bat .292, with 110 runs scored, 106 batted in with a .886 OPS. But that was by far his most complete season. Zimm lead all four third basemen listed in this section in OPS last year, but was last or second to last in homers, RBIs and runs scored.
But a lot of Zimmerman’s lack of success has to do with the terrible teams he’s played for; he’s never had a full season on a team of more than 73 wins. All metrics considered, if you were to put Zimmerman on the 2010 Rays or Yankees, or even the mediocre Mets (who finished with 10 more wins than the Nats), then maybe Zimmerman has a better year than his 85/25/85/.307 he threw down last season.
The bottom line here is that if I had to pick, I would go with Longoria, Wright, Zimmerman and then A-Rod. Longoria has been relatively injury-free all three of his seasons, plays on an excellent Tampa Bay squad and is without question, the best third baseman in the game. Despite the blemish of his 2009 season, Wright has had an outstanding 6 1/2 year career and I have come to expect seasons like Zimmerman’s career 2009…or better. A-Rod is last of the bunch not because of skill, but mostly because of recent injury history and age.
Lineup Outlook: As mentioned earlier, Zimmerman’s numbers really suffered because of the lack of production from his teammates and the numbers support it: the Nationals placed no higher than 20th in the majors in almost every single offensive categories, save HR (18th) and triples (12th). But the Nationals are done messing around. The Nats were in on almost every single free agent this winter, landing Jayson Werth with a very sensible 7-year, $128 million dollar contract (I know sarcasm translates poorly on the interweb – so there was a lot of sarcasm there. Don’t get me wrong, Werth is a great player, but for that money I think it would be easier to create a player in a lab). Couple this with another year of experience for Desmond and Espinosa and the additions of Adam LaRoche, that should slightly offset the loss of Adam Dunn and help bolster Zimmerman’s run scoring and producing opportunities.
What They’re Saying: Yahoo: #4 Third Baseman, #19 Overall; CBS Sportsline: #3 Third Baseman; Tristan Cockcroft of ESPN.com: #27 Overall; John Halpin of Fox Sports: #18 Overall; RotoChamp: #32 Overall; Fantasy Newsman: #4 Third Baseman
Projection: The Nats have been getting better for a couple years now, and I think Zimmerman’s numbers improve with them.
98 R, 30 HR, 110 RBI, 2 SB, .305 BA
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