Zimmermann, Davis Honored For Farm Work

By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Washington Nationals prospects awarded yesterday with the organization's premier minor league awards both expressed gratitude for the honor. And that's about where their similarities ended. Jordan Zimmermann, the minor league pitcher of the year, is a 22-year-old whose accelerated rise through the organization indicates his arrival in the big leagues next season. Leonard Davis, the minor league player of the year, is a 24-year-old whose journey through the organization has been circuitous and unheralded.

For Davis, this season -- in which he rose from Class A to Class AAA, hitting a combined .310 with 25 home runs and 76 RBI -- marked a change of course. He's been in the team's system since 2004, when he was drafted in the eighth round. With his 2008 performance, he's pushed himself into the team's long-term plans -- or at least he'll get a look.

"Leonard Davis is a middle-of-the-order impact bat," team scouting director Dana Brown said. "Now is he ready to do that at the big league level? Probably not yet."

Davis wasn't promoted to the big leagues this September in part because he had played just 48 games with Class AAA Columbus. Washington will likely add Davis to the 40-man roster this offseason, Brown said, protecting him against the Rule 5 draft. He is now playing left field, a position he switched to after a trial at third base. "He was a right fielder when we drafted him," Brown said. "We converted him to third base, and that really improved his foot work. Then we put him back in the outfield -- where he really belongs -- and it's like it's easy for him."

Zimmermann has a more central role in the team's plans. A second-round pick in 2007, the right-hander this year went a combined 10-3 with a 2.89 ERA for Class A Potomac and Class AA Harrisburg. Team officials said that Zimmermann would have been promoted to the majors last month had it not been for a bout of biceps tendinitis and an innings total that had neared its limit.

But Zimmermann will have a chance to make the team's starting rotation out of spring training. "It would be nice," Zimmermann said. "It would be quite the feat, I guess, for someone to get up there that fast. I'd be excited."

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