Zimmerman, Friends Now Playing In Arizona Instructional League
[October 7th] -- At first blush, it would seem that Nationals third-baseman Ryan Zimmerman doesn't need to be spending any time in the Arizona Instructional League this fall to prepare for the 2006 season. He Hit .343 at Class 'A' Savannah, .471 at 'AA' Harrisburg [and 11 home runs at the two levels], and a hefty .397 with Washington during his September call-up. But it seems that current GM Jim Bowden wants to give him every chance to succeed next year with the big club.
It's not his bat that team officials want to work on, or even his fielding; it's his flexibility. Zimmerman will spend a great deal of time at both second base and short in hopes that he'll be ready to take over for Cristian Guzman if he falters again next year, or at second if Vidro is still ailing [though I suspect that Junior Spivey would be the first choice to replace Vidro if he is still having knee and ankle problems]. Bowden said just before the end of the season, "Absolutely, mentally, physically, ability wise, I think Ryan Zimmerman is ready to play every day in the major leagues right now." My guess is [and this is just a guess] that Bowden feels that if Castilla is 100% healthy next year, he's going to get a great deal of playing time at the hot corner. And that makes sense. If Castilla plays 120 games, he can rest his "aches and pains" and still contribute when he's in the lineup. But Bowden realizes that by sitting Zimmerman 120 games next season, he'll hinder his progress towards stardom. But, if he plays 40 games at third base, 20 at short, another 30 at second, he'll get his at-bats and [hopefully] a healthy Castilla can still contribute. We'll see.
Also playing in the instructional league: 1B] LARRY BROADWAY: injuries limited his effectiveness, but team officials still believe he can be a productive first-baseman at the major league level ----- RHP] ROY CORCORAN: Relief pitcher with a 4.85 ERA at New Orleans last season ----- INF] BRENDAN HARRIS: Part of the Nomar Garciaparra/Orlando Cabrerra trade last year, he's hit at every level, but fielding deficiencies make him a question-mark in management's eyes (though I like the guy) ----- LHP] DAVID MAUST: A lefty out of the Harrisburg bullpen, he went 5-4 with a nice 2.32 ERA. Batters hit a low .221 against him, and he walked only 14 in 100 innings. ----- RHP] CHRIS SCHRODER: A tremendous beginning in 2005 was wiped out by a bad end, but his career minor league record is 21-13 with a studly 3.07 ERA. ----- INF] TONY BLANCO: Did anyone realize that Blanco hit .275 with 29 homers while playing at "high A" and "AA" in the Reds system in 2004? Kind of makes you wonder why they left him off their 40-man roster and exposed to the "Rule V" draft. Of course, he had to remain on the big club's roster all year or be offered back to the Reds at "half-price," so he didn't get much of a chance to contribute before being placed on the disabled list. While in "rehab" [wink-wink], he played in 16 games with New Orleans and batted .281.
All seven of these players should play a big part in the Nationals' long term future.