Ryan Zimmerman loves baseball. But if there's one thing he can't stand, it's turning on a major-league game and watching a player loaf his way to first base after hitting a routine grounder or fly ball. It bugs him when players fail to hustle, make careless mistakes or otherwise, in his words, "disrespect the game."Zimmerman certainly wasn't in any mood to waste time in getting his pro baseball career underway. He has signed a contract with the Nationals and will report to AA Harrisburg after a press conference on Friday afternoon. According to a report on MLB.com, the deal has been done for at least a month.
Why? Because, as Virginia coach Brian O'Connor says, "Ryan plays the game the right way."
It appears that the Nationals are willing to give Zimmerman a shot at getting into the big leagues very soon, perhaps this year. Said Zimmerman on Thursday afternoon after signing his contract:
They made it clear that they want me to play and they're trying to get me up to big leagues as soon as they can. I think that shows what they think of me ... and how much they trust my baseball skills if they're going to go ahead and do that.This appears to be a draft pick akin to one that an NFL team would make. The Nationals will need a third baseman in the next couple of years as Vinny Castilla is 37 and is signed just through 2006. Drafting for need, the Nats took his heir. With a year and a half of minor league seasoning following three years of collegiate play at UVa, Zimmerman should be as ready as he ever will be to step into the Nats' hot corner in 2006.
He was an excellent hitter in the ACC, but it's difficult to project how his numbers will project in the bigs. Defense comes to play no matter what level you're on. From a pre-draft article by John Sickles on MinorLeagueBall.com:
A solid all-around hitter, Zimmerman is also an excellent defensive third baseman. He doesn't have Gordon's offensive ceiling, but he should move through the minors very quickly. Rumors indicate that the Washington Nationals, picking fourth, are interested in him. He would be a good fit.General Manager Jim Bowden seemed to be pumped up about getting Zimmerman before the team even got him. Last week, Bowden said:
Zimmerman is projected to be a Gold Glove-caliber third baseman like Scott Rolen. He even has the agility and body control to play shortstop. He is a guy who should hit .300 with 20 to 30 home runs.Good defense, a leader and a winner, could play short, possible big-league ready in a year or so, plays the game the right way. What's not to like?
When he played with a wooden bat for the USA Team, he outhit Gordon, who is expected to be the No. 1 college player taken in the draft. Zimmerman has tremendous character, tremendous makeup. He's a leader and he's a winner.