March 18, 2009
Over the next couple weeks we will examine several dazzling exhibition performances to help fantasy followers decipher the meaningful from the meaningless. Hey, some spring efforts are actually relevant. Oh, and for those concerned about indecent behavior, all players featured will be
partially fully clothed.
Similar to the buzz surrounding the Nationals' offensive Zimmerman, Ryan, three years ago, elite pitching prospect Jordan Zimmermann is starting to turn heads. Fantasy fans better take notice.
One of Baseball America's top up-and-comers, the 22-year-old has routinely made opposing swatters look silly this spring. In 12.1 innings he's scattered just six hits, not yielded a run and posted a sparkling 16:2 K:BB split. Sure, it's a small sample, but based on the rookie's pedigree, the returns are eye-opening to say the least.
The former '07 second-rounder, who slipped in the draft due to complications after taking a laser beam off the jaw, is projected by most scouts to eventually develop into a top-of-the-rotation mantasy. His five-pitch arsenal – 90-94 mph fastball, low-90s sinker, slow curve, tight mid-80s slider and change – has perplexed hitters at the minor league level. Zimmermann's secondary pitches, particularly his off-speed stuff, need more refinement, but his remaining weapons are already considered major league ready. Combine that with an aggressive demeanor and fearless attitude, and the nasty Nat fits the profile of a future fantasy stud.
Between High- and Double-A last season, the youngster tallied a 2.86 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 8.89 K/9 and 3.12 BB/9 in 135.2 innings pitched. His variety of weapons, particularly his lethal sinker, embarrassed batters (.214 BAA), coaxing several groundball outs (48.2 GB%).
Historically, the Nats front office hasn't been shy promoting upside arms. Although many Washington fans have stressed he needs more farm seasoning, the uninspiring play of Collin Balester (6.55 ERA) has likely propelled Zimmermann into the rotation. Skipper Manny Acta can't stop gushing about the kid:
"He's quite impressive. He attacks the strike zone. He had a very sharp slider today. For those guys that haven't seen him, they struggled with that slider. He locked up a couple good hitters in that lineup...We've got three weeks to go. If he doesn't get anybody out from here to the last day of the season, then I'm going to have to eat my words if I put him in the rotation today. We're going to make the decision on whether it's going to be the best for him or for us. Right now, it looks like it will be the best thing for us."
With any underdeveloped pitcher, bumps in the road and an innings cap should be expected. But Washington's offensive improvements, pitcher friendly environment and Zimmermann's punchout potential mean he's worth acquiring now.
However, don't fall too in love.
Yes, many big leaguers haven't seen his stuff, which means a sizzling start similar to Johnny Cueto's last year is possible. If that happens, owners in non-keeper leagues should seek a gullible trade suitor. Remember how Cueto performed over the rest of the season? Bandwagon boneheads always overpay for early season surprises. Just ask the dude in your league who still drafts Chris Shelton.
Zimmermann, going largely undrafted and still available in 84 percent of Y! leagues, is a future ace, but his inexperience will undoubtedly breed inconsistency.
Fearless Forecast: 135 IP, 8 W, 4.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 101 K
Image courtesy of the Washington Times