Can the Nationals Offense Still Thrive If Ryan Zimmerman's Shoulder Limits Him?

Michael Nargi@NargOnSportsSenior Analyst IJanuary 31, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 19:  Ryan Zimmerman #11 of the Washington Nationals takes off his batting helmet after making the final out in the sixth inning against the Houston Astros at Nationals Park on April 19, 2012 in Washington, DC. Houston won the game 11-4. (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals are going to find themselves in quite a race in the NL East this season, and their offense will be key in achieving their ultimate goal, to win a World Series. One of the key pieces in their quest will be the production that they get out of Ryan Zimmerman

What if the All-Star third baseman is hampered once again by the shoulder injury that limited him to 145 games and hindered his production in the first half of the season? 

As Zimmerman's health improved, so did the entire team's offense. The Nationals hit .251 in the first half while Zimmerman was injured, and .273 after the All-Star break when Zimmerman's health began improving.

It is going to be interesting to see if the Nats will sink or swim once again with the health of Zimmerman.

The Nationals had the luxury of trotting one of the most electrifying offenses in the majors last season and look to have the best lineup in the National League to begin 2013. If Zimmerman is injured again however, that lineup cannot be expected to produce to such high standards.

While Zimmerman was injured in the first half of last season, the Nationals were also without Michael Morse, who started the year on the DL. The Nats have since traded Morse, so the 2012 first-half numbers might be a bit more representative of what to expect from the lineup should Zimmerman have issues with his shoulder once again.

The wild card is going to be the development of Bryce Harper in his second season at the big league level. Harper has the ability to carry a team, and if he develops into a leader and comes through in the clutch, then the Nationals might be able to weather through Zimmerman's injury struggles.

If Harper does not develop into a leader and Zimmerman struggles through injuries once again, then the Nats might have a rough road ahead of them.