Thursday, August 18, 2005

Is Zimmerman a "Shortstop" from the Majors?

In today's Washington Examiner article, Bowden starts off with the following:
In what will appear as a desperate move, but really shouldn't be, I have ordered our Player Development Department to begin playing June's first-round pick Ryan Zimmerman at shortstop. Ryan will eventually be a Gold Glove third baseman in the big leagues. But it's important to our major league club that players like Zimmerman have the ability to play more than one position in case of injury or prolonged slumps with existing players. With Vinny Castilla's knee injuries and the horrific year Cristian Guzman is having, I may have no choice but to bring Ryan to the big leagues in his first professional season. He wouldn't come to Washington as the solution to get us to the playoffs. But instead he would provide insurance in case of injury with Castilla or if Guzman doesn't snap out of his year-long slump.
It appears Bodes is finally willing to publicly admit his mistake in the Guzman signing (though not directly). It's a move that on one level makes sense, the Nationals are in the running for the playoffs and if sitting Guzman or Castilla is what is necessary to get there, as a GM with no certainty in the future, he has to try anything/everything to try and keep his job. But clearly, there are longer term ramifications of the move that Bodes addresses:
There are several reasons a GM does not want to make such a promotion, including but not limited to service time, future option restrictions, earlier eligibility to arbitration and free agency and stifling a player's development when they aren't quite ready.
GMs are paid to make the tough personnel decisions. Their responsibility is to not only the short term health but the long term gameplan of the team. Bowden is taking a calculated risk here ... a dangerous calculated risk. He is moving who everyone in the Nationals organization (himself included) labelled as a future Gold Glove 3B to shortstop for a quick fix. Can he play there? Does he feel comfortable there? The answer to those questions initially appear to be, yes. In a February 23 Daily Progress article:
For Zimmerman, shortstop is home. He played there throughout his high school career at Kellam in Virginia Beach. But after playing 118 straight games at third base, the presesason All-American made the move without a hitch. He made the move look easy. He turned a double play. He made five tough ground balls look easy. "I thought he looked very, very good," Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. "I think Ryan Zimmerman can be a shortstop in professional baseball. He is so athletic and so versatile. "We could put the kid anywhere on the field and he would do a fantastic job."
While this is a small sample size, Zimmerman can play shortstop. But it's this next line that is the most telling:
"He's a very talented shortstop, but we have to do day-in and day-out what we think is best for our ballclub."
What is best for this ballclub? I don't believe Zimmerman to majors this year is what is best for this ballclub, regardless of whether he plays 3B or SS. He is ready defensively at 3B. I'm not so sure if two weeks at SS in Harrisburg is going to give him enough time to get comfortable on a day-to-day basis in the majors. And if he's not comfortable in the field, that can impact a player at the plate. And this is a place where I honestly believe he is not ready even at 3B. In 49 games in Harrisburg, Zimmerman has 10 walks in 181AB. He needs to work on his plate discipline because the one thing I know is that the pitchers he'll be facing in September are far superior to anyone he's faced in Double-A. I really hope that common sense wins out here and Ryan Zimmerman is afforded the greatest chance at success which is predicated on him staying in the minors playing every day and not playing one or twice a week while sitting on the bench in the majors. A new owner with designs on a new GM is the best hope we have as Nationals fans for long term success.

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