2016 was a disappointment for Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman, but can he find success in 2017?
Last year was a tough season for Washington Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. While he played in over 100 games for the first time since 2013, the 32-year-old first baseman hit only .218, drove in 46 RBI’s, and had a -1.1 WAR (according to ESPN).
Heading into 2017, there are more questions than answers surrounding Zimmerman. He has three more years left on his contract with a $18 million team option for 2020. Zimmerman isn’t going to be taken out of the starting lineup anytime soon since it is known Dusty Baker likes to play the veterans. But, what should his expectations be going into 2017?
While Zimmerman had a disappointing season in 2016, he was still making good contact on the baseball. According to Statcast, Zimmerman’s average velocity on the balls he put in play was 94.1 miles per hour, which was the 14th fastest of any hitter in baseball. So, was it just a lot of bad luck for Zimmerman?
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Let’s take a closer look at the numbers. If you go by his line drive percentage, Zimmerman only hit a line drive 16.7% of the time. That is over four percent lower than his 2014 total of 21%. As for his fly ball percentage, that went down from 35.4% in 2014 to 34.7 % this past season. Both of those stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.
Now, home/road splits aren’t a great indicator of a player’s success. With that being said, Zimmerman’s splits weren’t great in 2016. He hit just .189 despite hitting nine of his 15 home runs at Nationals Park. During the course of his 12-year career, Zimmerman’s previous low batting average at home was .262 back in 2008. He did hit .247 on the road this past season.
Once the playoffs started last year, Zimmerman was hitting the ball better. His 17 hits in September were the second most he had in any month (28 in May). Plus, he went 6-for-17 with two doubles and two RBI’s in the NLDS against the Dodgers. His six hits were one behind the team lead and he was one of only two players with more than one double (Jayson Werth had two).
With the Washington Nationals having a strong lineup, Zimmerman probably won’t be hitting higher than sixth at any point during the year. But, if you go by the STEAMER projections on Fangraphs, Zimmerman is projected to hit 20 home runs, have a .261 batting average, and have a .323 on-base projections.
There isn’t much pressure on Zimmerman to be the star in a lineup that has Trea Turner, Daniel Murphy, Bryce Harper, and Anthony Rendon just to name a few. But, if Zimmerman can hit 20 home runs in 2017, he would bring even more depth to this lineup, which hit 203 home runs this past season (fourth in the National League).
Going into 2017, it remains to be seen whether or not Zimmerman is going to stay healthy. While he isn’t the All-Star that he was in 2009 anymore, there isn’t any reason to believe that Zimmerman can’t be a good hitter at the bottom of this lineup and it wouldn’t be surprising if he hit 20+ home runs for the first time since 2013.