Thoughts on Jordan Zimmermann
One of my favorite young pitchers is Jordan Zimmermann of the Washington Nationals. A reader asked me for my take on him, so here goes.
Zimmermann was a second round pick in 2007 from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He was dominant in college and some scouts felt he could have gone in the first round if he'd pitched at a better-known baseball school. He showed a 90-94 MPH fastball along with a slider, curveball, and changeup, and he was a good athlete as well. His pro debut was quite good: 2.38 ERA with a 71/18 K/BB in 53 innings for Vermont in the New York-Penn League, with 45 hits allowed. I gave him a Grade B in the 2008 book, with an enthusiastic scouting report and a note that "if he stays healthy I think he will move rapidly."
He began 2008 with Potomac in the Carolina League, posting a 1.65 ERA with a 31/8 K/BB in 27 innings with just 15 hits allowed. Promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, he went 7-2, 3.21 with a 103/39 K/BB in 107 innings, with just 89 hits allowed. His K/IP and H/IP marks were excellent, scouting reports had him up to 95 MPH, and his slider, curve, and changeup were all well-regarded. I moved his rating up to a Grade B+ in the '09 book, and had him ranked as Number 21 Pitching Prospect on my Top 50 list.
As you know, Zimmermann went 3-5, 4.63 in 16 starts for Washington in 2009 before blowing out his elbow and needing Tommy John surgery. He recovered in time to make seven starts last year with mixed results. In his major league career, Zimmermann is 4-7 in 23 starts, with a 4.71 ERA and a 119/39 K/BB in 122 innings, 126 hits allowed. However, his career FIP is considerably better than his ERA at 4.16. His component ratios are all solid, the main weakness being a rather high home run rate.
Pitch F/X shows Zimmermann losing about one MPH off his fastball between '09 and '10, which isn't uncommon following TJ. He relies primarily on his fastball (66.8% of his pitches in his career), mixing in the slider, curve, and change. He threw more sliders than curves pre-injury, but used the curve more last year. It will be interesting to see how his pitch selection looks this year.
I liked Zimmermann a lot before he got hurt. I still like him. The latest news is that Zimmermann "feels great" and is expected to be the Opening Day starter.
If his arm holds up, I think he can be an above-average starting pitcher and possibly a really good one.