6. Jesus FloresThe sample size is still a bit small, but with 103 plate appearances in the book, Flores has dramatically improved his approach at the plate. And boy did he need it. After a solid start to the season last year, he went into a prolonged skid, hitting .232 / .262 / .354 after June 1. It seemed that perhaps his development might never recover from the full year he spent in the majors in 2006 after he was taken by the Nationals in the rule 5 draft and then being pressed into service again in 2007 when Paul Lo Duca and Johnny Estrada both failed.
This year, his walk rate has more than doubled from 4.7% to 10.9%. His BABIP is an unsustainable .400, but with a .311 / .382 / .522 line, he can have a lot of regression and still be a solid offensive catcher. For a guy who looked totally overmatched a year ago, that's great news for Nationals fans.
5. Adam DunnI'm sure Big Donkey would rate higher on many people's list, but I just personally care too much about fielding to feel all that much love for the big galoot. Still, he's got himself 16 dingers, 39 walks, and an OBP just below .400. Beats the heck out of Wily Mo Painful.
4. Jordan ZimmermannForget the ERA over 6. He's got the league's worst defense behind him, leading to a very high .362 BABIP and low 65.4% strand rate. He's whiffing 9.20 per 9 and walking just 2.74. He's still getting too much of the plate with has fastball and curve, and he probably could stand to occasionally throw a fewer strikes and make guys chase a little. Regardless, his fielding independent ERA of 4.21 tells the real story. Flash Jordan is doing just fine in his first tour through the bigs.
3. Ross DetwilerDetwiler ranks above Zimmermann only because he's been a bigger surprise. A year ago at this time, he was walking over 5 batters per 9 in A ball. Now, he's got 15 innings under his belt with a strikeout to walk ratio of 2.40 and a fielding independent ERA of 3.63. With his big, mid-90s fastball and slow bender, the lefty is showing why he was such a high pick in the first place. He's got plenty to work on at AAA, but given where we were with this guy just a couple months ago who could complain? The only problem I've had is that I can't decide whether we call him Rottwiler, or Rosswiler or Ross Rottweiler or what.
2. Nick JohnsonNothing is more frustrating to me as a Nationals fan than listening to the legions of fans dumping on our best player because of his bad luck with injuries, as if it's somehow his fault. His power still hasn't quite fully shown up yet and his defense hasn't been what we've come to expect, but he's fifth in MLB with a .436 OBP. We're so much better with him in the line-up. It's too bad the team seems to have decided that he has no future here. Till we trade him for some fungible middle reliever, I'm going to cherish every last take.
1. Ryan ZimmermanWho'd you expect, Wil Nieves? Zimmerman's officially taken the leap, and what a leap it is. He's raking to the tune of .319 / .386 / .546, and he turns in a fielding gem almost every game. And, miracle of miracles, we resigned him long term. (I didn't dream that, did I?)