Call me crazy but I'm ranking Ryan Zimmerman in the top five at third base in 2009. The top five. Here is how I rank third base entering the 2009 season:
1. David Wright NYM
2. Evan Longoria TB
3. Aramis Ramirez CHC
4. Ryan Zimmerman WAS
5. Garrett Atkins COL
6. Kevin Youkilis BOS
The obvious #1 pick at third is David Wright. Wright does it all. He hits for average and home runs, he scores a ton of runs and drives in a ton of RBIs. Oh, and Wright steals bases too. Not only is David Wright the #1 third baseman, but he's probably the #1 draft pick over all. Longoria and Ramirez come in at #2 and #3 at this position.
As you can see, Arod doesn't even make the top five. Everything that could go wrong with Arod during the off season, has gone wrong. The exposure to steroid use. Hip surgery leading to 3-4 months loss time. I admit that he probably will return after 3-4 months and put up good numbers. But I think Arod looks like a mess this coming season. I've got caution signs posted all over the place when it comes to Alex Rodriguez.
I'm ranking Zimmerman fourth and over Youkilis , Huff and Garrett Atkins at third this year. Youkilis is always sustaining some type of minor "set back" during the season. I've had Youkilis on my fantasy teams in the past and thankfully the loss time was short. But I have a feeling there will come a time when one of his many ailments will cause him to miss significant playing time. Caution signs go up with Youk too, though not as many as Arod . Huff is decent and his value goes up since he is 1B/3B eligible. Same applies to Atkins. But Huff has been relatively inconsistent during his career and I don't think he can repeat 2008. Deciding between Atkins and Zimmerman is a tough call.
As mentioned above, Atkins is 1B/3B eligible which increases his value over Zimmerman. But I like Zimmerman at third this coming season. Zimmerman has played three seasons now. In his first two, his home run total was in the 20's. He was well on his way for 20+ home runs last year but went down with injury. He's relatively consistent in batting average and looks to be a .285 hitter. His RBI totals are also consistent 85-90 each year. Doesn't sound like stats you'd want to rank in your top five third basemen, right? But did you realize he's only 25-years-old this coming season? At age 25 his power is just starting to develop. He'll also mature as a hitter. I'm not a math genius but it seems to me that maturity + increase in power = increase in stats across the board. Let's not forget that Zimmerman hit 20+ home runs at age 21 in his rookie season!
One other thing you need to realize about Zimmerman. He plays for the Nationals. This is where I would normally lose you, but I actually think it works in his favor when analyzing his stats. You see the Nationals as a negative thing. I see 85-90 RBIs while playing for the Nationals. That's like hitting a million RBIs on a better team. Let's not forget the Nationals during the off season improved their lineup by bringing in Adam Dunn. Dunn will likely hit behind Zimmerman which means pitchers can' t just pitch around him anymore. Ahead of Zimmerman in the lineup will likely be Cristian Guzman (hit .316 last year), Lastings Milledge (stole 24 bases last year) and/or Elijah Dukes (stole 13 bases last year). None of these players are to get excited about. But they can get on base and move into scoring position, allowing Zimmerman to increase his RBI production.
Two other things to remember about Zimmerman in 2009. He enters the season fully healthy from last year's injury (torn muscle in left shoulder) and he's playing on a one-year contract at this point. Which means he's playing on contract year. He returned healthy by the end of last season hitting .290 with 5 HR in September. I'm guessing he will pick up from where he left off.