Ouch, Ryan Zimmerman Likely Out Three Weeks. How Do The Nationals Get By?

Bill Ladson of MLB.com first reported that Washington Nationals star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with the abdomen strain that kept him out of Sunday’s win over the New York Mets. According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the Nationals think he could be out more than three weeks:

“Zimmerman sat out Sunday’s game, meaning the soonest he could return is April 24. But Zimmerman will miss more time than that. The Nationals hope he will return in three weeks, but it could be longer. Until then, the Nationals will be without their best player and No. 3 hitter. Zimmerman, 26, also missed the final two weeks of last season with a strained oblique, an injury not related to this.”

To say this is bad news for the Nationals would be an understatement. To many outsiders, when they think of Washington, they think of Ryan Zimmerman and a bunch of young, unproven prospects. With Zimm out of the lineup, it leaves just those prospects who, while hungry, have yet to prove themselves consistently at the Major League level.

In Zimmerman’s place we’ll likely see a combination of Alex Cora and Jerry Hairston Jr. Cora provides a strong veteran presence and the ability to play all of the positions on the diamond, but leaves the Nationals seriously lacking at the plate. Hairston is slightly better with the bat, but will also be called on to play centerfield as the left-handed side of the platoon with Rick Ankiel.

The most frustrating part of this three-week plus period however will be that the Nationals won’t be attempting to replace an average or even above average third basemen with a pair of replacement level players. They will instead be tasked with replacing the best defensive third baseman in baseball, and arguably one of the best offensive third baseman as well.

Ryan Zimmerman 2010: 7.2 WAR, 13.9 UZR, .307/.388/.510
Jerry Hariston in 2010: 1.9 WAR, 8.0 UZR, .244/.299/.353
Alex Cora in 2010: -1.2 WAR, -0.5 UZR, .210/.266/.278

Aside from the now massive hole at third base, the Nats are also stuck with a huge gap in their lineup in terms of general production. The only two players who have slugged above .455 since the beginning of 2010 for the Nationals are Adam Dunn (gone), Ryan Zimmerman (hurt), and Michael Morse (slumping). The Nats best hope is that Morse and LaRoche can rebound to be the 20-25 home run talent we anticipated them to be at the start of the season. Jayson Werth will likely not see many pitches to hit, so it will be all-the-more important that those two rise to the occasion.

We’ll also likely see Wilson Ramos get some more at bats, as the Nats can’t suffer through Ivan Rodriguez’s weak bat during Zimmerman’s hiatus.