Into The Hype-Machine, With Jordan Zimmermann!

Bleacher ReportCorrespondent IMarch 28, 2009

Jordan Zimmermann, born in the year 1986, is a wonderful young pitching prospect in the Nationals organization.  He’s arguably their best pitching prospect, and he’s definitely the most major league ready of the bunch — or some combination of both.

Zimmermann appears to have the inside track on the fourth spot in the rotation, as he continues to battle with Collin Balester and Shairon Martis. Martis appears to be the odd man out, regardless of his sparkling 1.42 Spring ERA.

Up until last Saturday, Zimmermann had dominated Spring Training for the Nats, feeding the hype machine much needed complex carbohydrates. At which point, the St. Louis Cardinals beat the living pulp out of him, for 5 runs in 2 innings. Afterwards, Zimmermann did something astonishing, something so warranted of praise that I’ll type it in bold and italics: Zimmermann manned-the-f**k up.

Zimmermann refused to make excuses for his poor performance, although the excuses were there. There’s absolutely nothing I hate more than watching a player decide he’s healthy enough to play, but also sick enough to make excuses if he fails.

Tangent Time:

Last night’s Syracuse / Oklahoma game definitely resulted in plenty of curse words being hurled at the television.  Jonny Flynn who was hurt enough to limp around like a 3-legged dog on defense, was also healthy enough to dribble-drive and fly by Oklahoma defenders for easy lay-ups.  Watching Flynn limp around right before jumping in front of a pass was about as irritating as a case of crabs.

wtfHey, did you see the HAIR on Blake Griffin’s mother? Jesus Christ, Lord Allmighty! That is some big hair. The side-view really doesn’t do it’s fullness justice.

Furthermore, BAM! Watching Griffin hit his head on the backboard after schooling the Orangemen and Flynn on how to successfully dunk, was uh-may-zing.

If only Wake Forrest didn’t soiled the bed, my bracket would be pretty gosh darn solid at this point.

End of Tangent Time

Zimmermann’s spring numbers have been just as uh-may-zing as Griffin’s dunk: 20 Strikeouts to 2 Walks in 14 innings pitched while not allowing an earned run outside of that St. Louis fiasco.

Drafted in the second round (67th overall) of the 2007 draft,  Zimmermann ranks as the Nationals’ number 1 prospect heading into 2009, that’s after he ranked #7 in 2008.

Zimmermann dominated the early minors posting 103 strike-outs in 106.1 IP in AA last year. Throw in his 1.20-WHIP and 3.20-ERA and we’ve got ourselves a legitimate phenom. Zimmermann’s low-minors numbers are even more jaw-dropping as he posted 12K-per-9 in low-A, and 10K-per-9 in high-A. Zimmermann does all this while only walking about 3 batters per 9.

  1. 90-94mph heater, with decent movement.
  2. low-90’s sinker
  3. over-the-top curveball
  4. work-in-progress change
  5. decent to good slider

Courtesy of Yahoo, Manny Acta loves 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.

Well, it looks like he has his roster spot pretty much locked up.  He dominated this past Thursday against Triple-A Round Rock. Anything could potentially happen, but Zimmermann should probably get to 150 IP one way or another this year.  Unless the remainder of the Nats rotation massively exceeds expectations, they probably won’t be in the play-off picture past July.  This’ll lead to the Nats doing the wise thing, and carefully treading these dangerous waters with Zimmermann.

It’s really not that hard to ruin a top-tier pitching prospect, and while it generally takes a little bit of help from the kid; you can probably name at least 10 pitchers whose development was delayed by early missuse/overused.

However, if Lannan, Olsen, and Cabrera exceed expectations, there’s no reason why the Nats couldn’t contend for a playoff spot which would probably push Zimmermann’s numbers up towards the 180 IP mark. Zimmermann did pitch about 135 innings between Single and Double A last year, so 180-190 isn’t a massive stretch.

Brad Evans over at Yahoo Fantasy Sports has Zimmermann pegged for 135 IP, 8 W, 4.34 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 101 K which seems like a conservative but fair estimate.

The Projection Models aren’t nearly as kind to Zimmermann. ZiPS has him getting 131IP, 4.81-ERA, 1.47-WHIP, to go with 88 Ks. Things get even worse with CHONE, to the tune of: 82IP, 5.05-ERA, 1.55-WHIP, and 69Ks.

Just because you draft Jordan Zimmermann doesn’t mean you have to keep him the entire year.  Yahoo’s assessment that he’ll Cueto the situation is pretty on-point.  I see Zimmermann having a slightly better ERA throughout the season, as Cincinnati is probably the last place you’d want a youngin’ to pitch this side of the Mississippi — Just ask Homer Bailey.

Zimmermann should dominate in his first month or so, and a mid-threes ERA isn’t out of the question.  His K-Rate will probably fall in the 7 to 7.5-per-9 range, with a whip of around 1.30ish.

After the first three or four starts is when the fun will begin. Zimmermann’s definitely got low-4’s ERA potential in him to go along with a 1.35ish WHIP.  A Solid 7K-per-9, and about 3.5BB-per-9, should keep him around the talented rookie standard of 2K-per-BB.

In shallow leagues where you can replace Zimmermann with a competant pitcher, by all means draft him for his upside.  In deep leagues where you’re looking at replacing Zimmermann with someone that pitches for the Seattle Mariners, I’d hedge my bets by picking an innings eater.

Zimmerman projects out as a solid number-2 or spectacular number-3 guy, in just about any rotation — for you keeper league guys.  Gil Meche-ish? Yah, I’m going with Gil-Meche-ish.

Just like Meche, Zimmerman is probably going to have to throw his slider and risk injury to remain a dominant strike-out pitcher.  The knock on Zimmerman is no out-pitch, but he clearly has one and it’s his slider — The Nats just don’t want him using it all the time as they’d prefer he avoid the fate of Gil Meche and his two rotator cuff surgeries.

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