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Is Ryan Zimmerman As Good As I Think He Is?

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I was reading a Baseball Prospectus' article* by Kevin Goldstein entitled, "Future Shock: "Who are the Next Rays? NL Version", and was disappointed to find that Mr. Goldstein does not think the Nationals are the next Tampa Bay Rays, (sorry Nationals' fans), and then it gets even worse as Mr. Goldstein writes, "This is a bad team with a bad minor league system, and little room for optimism," but that's not even the line that hurt most...Here's the line by Mr. Goldstein that really got me:

"Ryan Zimmerman is an outstanding defensive third baseman who doesn't do enough with the bat, but he's young and has some potential, just not as much as many think."

Now this is the Nationals' franchise player, Ryan Zimmerman, we're talking about here! Washington's first first round draft pick in 2005, who has been compared by the Nationals to the some of the game's All-time best third baseman, as MLB.com's Bill Ladson wrote in a 6/7/05 article entitled, "Nats draft Zimmerman at No. 4":

"The organization has already compared him to the likes of Brooks Robinson, Mike Schmidt and Troy Glaus..."

At 23 years of age, in his third full MLB season, Ryan Zimmerman missed nearly two months of the '08 season with a torn labrum in his left shoulder, and Zimmerman ended up hitting .283 in 106 games with 24 doubles, 1 triple, 14 HR's and 51 RBI's, leaving him with a .282 career average, 124 doubles, 9 triples, 58 HR's and 258 RBI's so far in his career...

At 23 years of age, The "Vacuum Cleaner" Brooks Robinson, (the Baltimore Orioles' Hall of Fame third baseman, who signed with the team as an amateur free agent in 1955), hit .294 with 27 doubles, 9 triples, 14 HR's and 88 RBI's, finished third in MVP voting and appeared in the All-Star Game, finishing the season with a .266 career batting average 6 years into his own career, in which he'd collected 68 doubles, 15 triples, 24 HR's and 160 RBI's to that point.

At 23 years of age, in 1973, Michael "Jack" Schmidt, a 2nd Round pick by the Phillies in 1971, (then in his second season with Philadelphia, after debuting on September 12, 1972), hit .196 in 132 games with 11 doubles, 18 HR's and 52 RBI's. The next year, in his first full season in the Majors, Schmidt played a full 162 and hits .282 with 28 doubles, 7 triples, 36 HR's and 116 RBI's.

At 23 years of age, Troy Glaus, already in his third season with the LA Angels, (who had drafted Glaus 1st overall with the 3rd pick in the 1997 Amateur Draft), hit .283 in 159 games with 37 doubles, 1 triple, 47 HR's and 102 RBI's, appearing in the All-Star Game and winning the AL Silver Slugger award to end the year with a combined .256 AVG, 75 doubles, 1 triple and 204 RBI's.

How good can Ryan Zimmerman end up being? Mets' and Braves' fans would surely tell you that he doesn't measure up to David Wright or Chipper Jones. David "Gold Glove" Wright, in his third MLB season in 2006 at 23 years of age, hit .311 in 154 games with 40 doubles, 5 triples, 26 HR's and 116 RBI's. Larry "Chipper" Jones finished 2nd in ROY voting in his first full season in 1995 at 23 years of age, hitting .265 in 140 games with 22 doubles, 3 triples, 23 HR's and 86 RBI's.

Where does Ryan Zimmerman rank in the list of elite MLB third basemen? Surely he would have benefited from a better batting order around him than Zimmerman has had in his first few seasons?...Is Ryan Zimmerman all that you thought he'd be when the Nationals made him their Inaugural 1st Round pick back in '05? You know the Nationals are asking themselves exactly what Zimmerman's worth now, with a new contract possibly right around the corner, how do you think DC judges Zimmerman's value? Is Ryan Zimmerman as good as I think he is?

(ed. note - * = "You'll need a subscription to Baseball Prospectus in order to read the Kevin Goldstein article, "Future Shock", but even if you don't have one, the comments on the piece are accessible without joining, and there is some interesting discussion about the Nationals, Stephen Strasburg, etc.")