On a team loaded with "prospects" and major league fill-ins, starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, 22, has provided actual talent and victories for a team devoid of both.
Jimmermann recorded his second win in as many starts Sunday after being called up from AAA Syracuse April 20. This victory was the team's first on the road all season.
Zimmermann has accounted for half of the team's wins thus far this season. He has accomplished this feat, which admittedly sounds better than it really is, with the help of a fastball of four solid pitches.
Dave Sheinin of The Washington Post included in his Nationals Journal blog on April 22 a major league scout's impressions of Zimmerman:
"I really like him. Everybody talks about his velocity, but I like the potential for both of his breaking balls. His slider is very good. Once he finds his true velocity, I think he'll eventually pitch at 92 [mph] wth two very good breaking balls. His change up is his worst pitch, but he has the potential to be a true four-pitch pitcher.
"I had him topped out at 95, but he was really comfortable at 92, 93, and I think that's where he's going to settle in. The one thing that bothers me in his delivery is [that] he flies open a little bit. And his command in the strike zone -- he throws a lot of strikes, but they weren't all necessarily quality strikes. He was getting hit hardest on his fastballs. His fastball command was a little less consistent than I'm sure he would've liked.
"I think he's going to be a solid rotation guy -- or maybe better than that. He has the potential to be a [number] 1 or 2. If I had to pencil him right now, I'd call him a 2. But I tell you, if they draft [Stephen] Strasburg and get him signed, and if this kid [Zimmermann] does what he's supposed to do, that's a hell of a back-to-back. If they come up with a third pitcher, they're the Florida Marlins. They could really have something here."
Zimmermann's stats for the season (2-0, 2.38 ERA, 8 SO, 3BB in 11.1 IP) compare favorably to those of the rest of the team's pitchers, who have a combined ERA of 5.09.
While many players on the Nats current roster have been labeled as having "potential," none, save for the other Zimmerman, Ryan, have come through the Nationals system as quickly or with as much success as Jordan Zimmermann.
The Nationals drafted Zimmermann in the second round in 2007. He then split time between A and AA in 2008 and was named to the Eastern League All-Star team. MLB.com also tapped him as the Nationals' organizational pitcher of the year.
During a bleak season, Zimmermann is a sign of hope for Nats fans. While they watch the loss total climb higher and higher, they can dream of the team's potential 2011 rotation and feel a modicum of comfort.
Such dreams take shape as:
1. Steven Strasburg
2. Jordan Zimmermann
3. Colin Balester
4. Shairon Martis
5. John Lannan.
Nats fans, keep flipping the pages on those calendars.