3B RYAN ZIMMERMAN
Considering the Nationals have the NL’s likely Cy Young winner on board with lefty Gio Gonzalez, this may seem a strange pick. But the gut just says go with the team’s best player … and Zimmerman is just that, and has been one of the game’s better players for quite some time.
Since breaking into the big in 2005, the third baseman has provided a great glove and consistently put up solid numbers, and at times can rattle off some spectacular ones over stretches. Injuries have been his main setback in becoming a star, but he’s healthy now and finds himself given the perfect stage to let the rest of the country know just what he can do.
In 578 at-bats during the regular season, Zimmerman hit .282, banged out 25 homers, knocked in 95 runs and scored 93. He struggled the first three months, but, again, once healthy, he took off in July, August and September as Washington quickly evolved from a nice story to arguably the best team in baseball en route to winning 98 games – the most in the majors.
The Nationals’ lineup is solid throughout with Adam LaRoche (team-best 33 homers and 100 RBIs), rookie standout Bryce Harper, Michael Morse and vastly underrated shortstop Ian Desmond (.292, 25 homers) joining Zimmerman. But he is the linchpin and the team’s three-hole hitter.
Washington will begin postseason action Sunday against the winner of Friday’s St. Louis vs. Atlanta wildcard play-in game. Either one presents a challenge to an offense as the Braves staff rated the NL’s fourth-best in ERA and the Cardinals’ sixth-best. The Nationals, who had the second-best in baseball with a 3.33, figure to be fine there.
But they’re going to need offense and Zimmerman figures to lead the way.