In our last game of the trip we saw the Nats take on the Mets yet again. There was a special treat in store however, as we were lucky enough to see the Nats number one prospect, Jordan Zimmermann, get the start on the mound.
Zimmermann has been highly touted by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. The young righty combines a sharp moving fastball with a solid change and curve, all of which he can locate well. We were able to sit right behind home plate, in about the fifth or sixth row to see him pitch for the first time in person. A few things surprised me.
On the mound Zimmermann looked surprisingly short. He is listed at 6 foot 2 but to the naked eye it looked as if that number may have been falsified. His delivery and mechanics looked smooth both from the windup and the stretch. He had little to no wasted movement and while his frame was not intimidating, his confidence on the mound seemed to be.
Zimmermann's fastball showed consistent speed but not overwhelming pop. It sat in the 93-94 range and not a single Mets batter got solid contact on it(although to be fair, the only Major League bats in the line up were Ryan Church and Marlon Anderson who both had hits off Zimmermann). His curveball seemed to fool hitters enough to make them hesitate but not enough to make them miss. Three of his four strikeouts came on freezing fastballs well located on the corners.
In this outing, against what was probably the worst line up he saw all spring, Zimmermann gave up his first base runners, six of them in three and a third innings. While he pitched himself into jams early in innings, the young righty was able to work his way out of all of them to lengthen his scoreless innings streak to 8 1/3rd this spring. The fact that such a young pitcher didn't lose his cool in high pressure situations such as those is impressive. Zimmermann was able to bare down and get the out when he needed.
Detwiler vs. Zimmermann
After getting a chance to see both of these young prospects pitch, the whole picture is starting to become clearer. When you read in Baseball Prospectus and Baseball America that Detwiler has better stuff than Zimmermann you don't really believe it until you see it. While Detwiler was getting shelled this spring you could see how he has the potential to be an ace pitcher if he ever puts it together. He has the size (6'5") Zimmermann doesn't, more power to his fastball, and his curve seemed to have better movement.
But then again this is just a microcosm of the great baseball debate, performance based evaluation or physical potential based? If you compare the numbers:
Zimmermann 8.3 IP, 0ER, 4H, 10K, 2 BB
Detwiler: 3 IP, 5 ER, 6H, 0K, 7 BB
It's no contest. The good news for the Nats however is that if they both can make the transition to the majors, they could provide a powerful one-two-three punch atop the rotation with John Lannan by 2011.