The Most Underrated Player in Baseball
He plays for a terrible team (that, to be fair, might be getting better). He crushes baseballs, walks a lot, and doesn’t strike out too much. He’s among the best defenders at his position every year. He plays a premium position. Fun fact, he turns 26 today (HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANONYMOUS PLAYER X!!!!!!!!!). And I think at the end of the week he’ll finish second on my (self-given) National League MVP ballot. That got your attention? Well, Ryan Zimmerman deserves it too.
The fact that I’m going to start by talking about his defense should also say something. He’s been an above average defender every year of his career. With the uncertainty surrounding the UZR data (typically about three years of data are needed to find a defender’s true talent level), it’s amazing that Zimmerman has never given back runs in the field. Three of the last four years, he’s been otherworldly; excluding 2008, he ranked 2nd, 4th, and and 1st at third base and 9th, 8th, and 3rd in the major leagues.
He’s a career 0.288/0.355/0.484 hitter, but over the past two seasons (his age 24 and 25 seasons) those numbers are 0.299/0.375/0.518. His walk rate has increased the last two seasons without a change in his strikeout rate. He’s hit 69 doubles, 3 triples, and 58 home runs over the past two seasons, showing increasing power as he enters his prime. Offensively, he’s only one of the best 20 or so hitters in baseball (which, by the way, is pretty good on its own).
When that’s packaged with his defensive abilities at a premium position (not to mention his contract*, which is already paid for), he quickly becomes one of the most valuable players in baseball. He shouldn’t have to live in anonymity because no one cares about Nationals’ baseball, nor should he be penalized by MVP voters next week for having bad teammates. There was a lot of talk this summer about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper saving the franchise, but the Nationals already have a franchise player that more of the country needs to watch play.
*Ryan Zimmerman 3b
- 5 years/$45M (2009-13)
- 2008: $465,000