MLB
February 28, 2012 posted by Paul Greco

Fantasy Baseball 2012 – Breakout Players: Jordan Zimmermann

Fantasy Baseball 2012 – Breakout Players: Jordan Zimmermann
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Jordan Zimmermann, Starting Pitcher, Washington Nationals

Jordan Zimmermann appears to be the forgotten man in the Washington Nationals’ organization.  Steven Strasburg and Drew Storen garner most of the attention in the Nats staff while Bryce Harper’s insane skill set has him making headlines across the country.  This could turn out to be the best situation of all for Zimmermann.

The 25-year-old right-hander was once Washington’s #1 prospect according to Baseball America.  He skyrocketed through the minor leagues, posting jaw-dropping numbers in A-, A+ and AA.  After ending the 2008 season at Harrisburg (AA), Zimmermann cracked the Nationals rotation to begin the 2009 season but was optioned to Syracuse (AAA) as the organization didn’t need him in the Majors until mid-April.

2009 ended with Tommy John surgery, 2010 was lost, and Zimmermann became an afterthought after his 2011 season began with a thud.  He posted a 4.55 ERA through the end of April and wasn’t striking anyone out (14 K through 29.2 IP).  Zimmermann rebounded in a big way, though, by posting a 2.87 ERA the rest of the way through the 161.1 inning cap that the organization placed on him in his first full season back.

Zimmermann leans on his four-seamer but gets good movement on his plus slider to keep hitters honest.   He relied less on his curveball last season than in years past, throwing it only 13% of the time overall and a mere 4% when he was behind in the count.  His curve’s effectiveness remains the same but he did a much better job of mixing his pitches in 2011.

Many will point to his falling K/9 as a cause for concern moving forward but I fervently disagree.  Zimmermann is a pitcher who understands his role and knows he must get deeper into games to be successful.  It’s pretty easy to see that Zimmermann can be electric on the mound.  He has come to the realization that pitching is about much more than trying to throw fire past everyone though.

In 16 starts during the 2009 season, he lasted 6 or more innings 8 times.  Compare this to 20 times in 26 starts last year and it’s pretty easy to see that he’s really maturing on the mound.  It should also be noted that although Zimmermann’s strikeout rates have fallen, his walk rates have gone in the same direction.  He posted a 7.4% rate in 2009 and improved it dramatically to 4.7% last year.

It’s fair to project 185 innings in 2012.  He won’t replicate his 5.9% HR/FB ratio but Zimmermann has a golden opportunity to post a 12 win season with a 3.35 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 150 K.  Zimmermann’s 1.15 WHIP ranked 8th amongst qualified starters in 2011 and his skills show this isn’t an anomaly.

Glancing at Mockdraftcentral.com, Zimmermann is going in the same neighborhood as other youngsters such as Brandon Beachy, Yu Darvish, and Jeremy Hellickson.  Beachy’s stuff doesn’t grade well at all and I have a hard time believing that he can replicate or even improve on 2011.  We have no idea how Darvish will handle Major League hitters and it would be wise to tread with caution.  Hellickson, finally, has had enough written about him since his AL Rookie of the Year victory in 2011 to make you believe that he was about as lucky as a starter can be.

Despite his unattractive win-loss record in 2011, Zimmermann’s ratios were excellent.  His 3.18 ERA and 1.15 WHIP, if repeated, will prove to be a great addition to your fantasy rotation.  Buy with confidence in 2012 and let your league mates take unnecessary risks on comparably-valued starting pitching.

Paul finished the 2011-2012 Fantasy Football season as the #1 Weekly Rankings & Projections winner of the 411Fantasy Expert Challenge. He also finished 2nd in the FantasyPros.com Expert Draft Accuracy Challenge in 2011. Top 10 Finisher in the FSWA Fantasy Football Draft Projections. Paul is also apart of baseballs elite as a member of Tout Wars. You can follow me on Twitter @PaulGreco
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