Comeback Player of the Year
The Nationals won this award last season, with Rendon capturing the honor behind a nice bounce-back year. However, Rendon’s surge from 2015-16 pales in comparison to Zimmerman’s jump thus far.
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From 2009-13, Zimmerman was probably one of the 25 best players in baseball. He stayed relatively healthy, and posted a productive .288/.359/.487 line, good for a 127 OPS+ (100 is average).
But the injuries took their tool over the next three seasons. Zimmerman averaged just 90 games per year from 2014-16, and batted a measly .242/.300/.420 with defense so awful at third base that he had to be moved off the position. Zim looked so done in 2016 that I was calling for him to be dropped into a platoon position with Danny Espinosa, which involved Murphy filling in at first base occasionally.
Miraculously, Zimmerman is having a renaissance season at 32 years old in 2017. He is batting .333 and slugging .602, both top-five marks in the NL right now. Zimmerman is even starting in the All-Star game ahead of Votto and Goldschmidt, absolutely remarkable for someone who appeared to be on their baseball death bed less than 10 months ago.
Milwaukee’s Eric Thames, who played in Korea last year, figures to be Zimmerman’s main competition for the award, but he has cooled since his torrid start. New York’s Michael Conforto is also in the running as he has had a bounceback season.
But Zimmerman has risen from the ashes like a phoenix. Nats fans knew he was incredible at his peak, so to see him hobbling through half seasons during the prime of his career was a shame. For Zimmerman – whose best years were on truly terrible ball clubs, and was then surpassed by Harper in popularity once the team became successful – it will be nice to see him receive some recognition this year for everything he has done in a Washington Nationals uniform.