This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.
Report on Jordan Zimmermann
Jordan Zimmermann was a college star at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, an NCAA Division III program. He proved his worth playing college summer ball, emerging as a strong prospect for the 2007 draft. Considered a first-round possibility at one point, he fell to the second round after missing the early part of the season due to non-arm injuries (fractured jaw, wisdom teeth removal). The Nationals snatched him up in the second round, and feel they got a bargain for $495,000.
I agree. Zimmermann has pitched excellently so far as a pro, adjusting well to Double-A in his first full season last year, showing above average stuff and good command. Although he hasn't received as much publicity as other top pitching prospects, there are a lot of things to like here.
TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT
Zimmermann is 6-1, 180 pounds, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born May 23, 1986. Although not a huge guy physically, he's an excellent athlete, which should (in theory) help him stay healthy. He is a good fielder and has a chance to be a good hitter as pitchers go.
Stuff-wise, Zimmermann's sinker has been clocked as high as 94-95 MPH, and he works consistently in the 90-93 range. He mixes the fastball with a slider (his best secondary pitch), improving curveball, and changeup, giving him four offerings against hitters. His curveball and changeup still need some polish. He mostly used the slider in college, but he's demonstrated the aptitude for both pitches, and with some additional experience he should have a complete arsenal.
Zimmermann's command is solid for a young power pitcher, and scouts love his competitive instincts, confidence, and intelligence. His mechanics have no serious flaws, and thus far he has been free of elbow or shoulder problems.
Zimmermann pitched extremely well in the New York-Penn League after signing in 2007, posting a 2.38 ERA with a 71:18 K:BB in 53 innings. He began 2008 with Potomac in the Carolina League, going 3-1, 1.65 in five games (four starts) with a 31:8 K:BB in 27 innings. Promoted to Double-A Harrisburg, he went 7-2, 3.21 with a 103:39 K:BB in 107 innings, with 89 hits allowed, very strong numbers for a guy just one year out of a small college. He was effective against both left-handed and right-handed hitters, and kept the ball down enough in the zone to avoid excessive home runs, giving up nine overall. About the only caution point in the numbers was a fairly sharp home/road split (2.37 ERA at home, 4.50 on the road) but the component ratios did not vary much. He was consistent from month to month, and was quite good down the stretch, with a 2.67 ERA and a 42:9 K:BB in his last seven outings over 34 innings.
Basically there are no real problems in the numbers, and a lot to be happy with.
FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE
Zimmermann is expected to begin the year in Triple-A, but he has been quite impressive in spring training thus far, and there is an outside chance he could begin the year in the major league rotation. Even if he begins in the minors, he would be on the short list for a call-up when pitching reinforcement is needed. In the long run, Zimmermann's combination of stuff and command profiles him as a potential number two starter. As with any young pitcher, there is always the risk of injury, but Zimmermann has no large red flags and many positive assets.
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Article first appeared 3/5/09