Sep 27, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Ryan Zimmerman (11) at first base against the Miami Marlins during the eighth inning at Nationals Park. The Nationals won 5-1. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
2. Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals)
After years of being the Nationals’ everyday third baseman, Ryan Zimmerman will slide across the diamond and become the team’s everyday first baseman starting next season.
Moving to first base should not only help Zimmerman stay healthy in 2015, but his bat should also be able to make up for the production that the team will no longer be getting from LaRoche.
Since Zimmerman has never played a full season at first base, it’s difficult to compare him to the other first basemen in the division. That said, there’s no question that Zimmerman has the potential to be the best-hitting first baseman in the NL East. For that to happen, however, Zimmerman will have to stay healthy – which is something he wasn’t able to do last season.
Hamstring and thumb injuries limited Zimmerman to just 60 games in 2014 and his absence was one of the reasons the Nationals’ offense struggled at times during the season. When he did played, however, he showed flashes of what the Nationals can expect from him if he manages to stay healthy for a full season. In those 60 games, Zimmerman hit .280 with 25 extra-base hits, five home runs and 38 RBIs.
If Zimmerman stays healthy in 2015, he has the potential to carry the Nationals’ offense into October. Zimmerman’s best season came in 2009, when he hit .292 with 33 home runs and 106 RBIs while being named to the All Star Game and taking home Gold Glove and Silver Slugger awards at third base. At just 30 years old and still in his prime, there’s no reason to believe a healthy Zimmerman can’t replicate those numbers in 2015.
Along with his health, Zimmerman’s defense will also be a big question mark for the Nationals next season. While none of the players on this list are great defensively, Zimmerman is in an interesting position because, while he has never played a full season at first, he was one of the best defensive third baseman in baseball for a long time. And although that doesn’t necessarily mean he’ll be as good a first baseman as he was a third baseman, there’s no reason to believe that he won’t be able to develop into an elite first baseman – especially now that his shoulder issues won’t be a factor in his defense – once he gets used to the position.
We won’t know how Zimmerman will do at first base until the season starts. But if he manages to stay healthy all year long and if he can get accustomed to his new position early in the year, Zimmerman may very well be the best first basemen in the NL East next season.
Next: Number One