Fantasy Baseball: What Can We Expect From Ryan Zimmerman Moving Forward?

Zimmerman had a career-best month to open 2017. Has the red-hot start made him a sell-high option, or is he in for a big year?

Like we all predicted, Ryan Zimmerman is leading the National League in hits, RBI, batting average, slugging percentage, OPS and total bases. He’s merely tied for the league lead in home runs with prankster and Cincinnati Reds destroyer Eric Thames.

Zimmerman has clearly had a career month for the Washington Nationals despite losing some spotlight to teammate Anthony Rendon’s historic 10-RBI game this past Sunday. But for a player drafted outside the top 400 -- per National Fantasy Baseball Championship data -- before the season, how much faith can we put into Zimmerman's blistering April start?

Fun With Numbers

The first item that stands out is a .448 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), which is simply incredible. There’s some inherent silliness when analyzing April numbers and relatively small samples, and getting a hit almost half the time you make contact in fair territory certainly qualifies.

There are some positive things to take away, though. The contact that he does make is of good quality, which makes sense as only 10.1% of his hits qualify as soft contact, well below his career average of 15.1%. His line-drive (21.7%) and fly-ball (40.6%) rates are both improved over career averages.

Split Soft-Contact% Line-Drive% Ground-Ball% Fly-Ball%
Career Average 15.1% 20.3% 44.9% 34.8%
2017 10.1% 21.7% 37.7% 40.6%

These increases are encouraging enough for him to continue to be productive even as the BABIP stabilizes.

Swinging More

A noticeable change comes in his O-Swing% and O-Contact% rates, which track how often a batter swings at (O-Swing%) and makes contact with (O-Contact%) a pitch outside of the strike zone. Compared to his career averages, Zimmerman shows a dramatic increase in both of these rates to begin the season.

Split O-Swing% O-Contact%
Career Average 26.5% 64.2%
2017 33.0% 75.0%

These could help explain the very high BABIP -- Zimmerman is swinging at more pitches outside of the zone, but he is also making contact with those pitches significantly more often. That combined with a slightly decreased walk rate (6.3% in 2017, compared to his 8.5% career average) suggests some of those walks have been converted to hits by swinging at pitches he may otherwise take.

Moving forward, the hope is that as the BABIP levels off, his walk rate will normalize as well if he starts not swinging at those pitches outside the zone.

All Profit

If you ask Zimmerman himself, the biggest factor in his early success is health. Over the last few years, injuries have plagued him -- multiple shoulder procedures combined with nagging wrist and hamstring problems. Maybe all Zimmerman needed was to put those health concerns in the rearview mirror to return to his All-Star form.

It’s unrealistic to expect Zimmerman to maintain this actual level of production going forward, so if someone is willing to trade you Anthony Rizzo for him, then by all means do it.

But ultimately, the lineup of sluggers around him should help him sustain the counting numbers (runs and RBI), so assuming he stays in the lineup, Zimmerman should continue to provide a nice return for fantasy owners this season even as he comes back to mortal levels. Our rest-of-season projections have him hitting 13 more jacks, scoring 51 more runs and racking up 49 more RBI with a .733 OPS the rest of the way.