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Roark making his mark with Nats

Sep 18, 2013, 12:13 PM EDT

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Of all the surprises – both good and bad – of the Nationals’ 2013 season, perhaps the hardest to predict would be the development of rookie pitcher Tanner Roark. A former 25th round pick acquired in a 2010 trade for Cristian Guzman, Roark wasn’t even the Nats’ first choice among minor league starting pitchers this season.

The Nationals went with Nathan Karns and Taylor Jordan before they even gave Roark a look. But now through 12 MLB games and three starts, Roark is earning respect from his teammates and manager, as well as others around the league.

“You get guys coming down to first and talking about how good his stuff is,” first baseman Adam LaRoche said. “Some really good hitters that are praising him. It says a lot. There’s not a lot of comfortable at-bats against him.”

Roark’s latest installment was a dominant outing against the Braves, seven shutout innings with only two hits and a walk allowed. He was masterful in the Nats’ 4-0 win over Atlanta, owning the strike zone and preventing solid contact from an otherwise potent lineup.

“The pressure’s on you,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “You either have to try to get him early. He’s obviously a guy who produces a lot of ground balls and all of a sudden you can be in the sixth or seventh inning and the guy’s got 70 pitches or you’re taking a lot of strike ones and putting yourself in a hole. So it’s a tough position to be in as a hitter and I can’t say enough about what Tanner did.”

Roark was inserted into the rotation on Sept. 7 as an “opportunity” according to Davey Johnson, not necessarily an audition. But in his three starts since, Roark has done more than enough to make the case he belongs there longterm.

“He’s put his stamp out there for one of the spots in this rotation,” Johnson said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I mean, that’s not gonna be my decision, but he would get my vote if I’m consulted.”

Johnson even went so far as to compare him to Jordan, who will be another candidate for a rotation spot in spring training. Also a rookie, Jordan was solid through nine starts, going 1-3 with a 3.66 ERA. Johnson, however, stands behind Roark.

“I was comparing him with Taylor Jordan and telling [Steve McCatty], Taylor Jordan’s got maybe the harder fastball, good changeup, scouts will like him over Tanner. But I said, ‘I’ve got to put Tanner ahead of him,’ because of great command. Composure, poise out there is unbelievable. And he competes.”

Roark now holds a 1.08 ERA through 41 2/3 innings on the year. He picked up his seventh win already on Tuesday, his third in three starts. Whether or not Roark is still starting for the Nats next season is unclear, but he’s sure helping them right now as they make a push for the playoffs.

  1. karlkolchak - Sep 18, 2013 at 12:38 PM

    So here was a guy that was listed on no supposed baseball “expert’s” Top 20 Nationals prospects list when the season began (nor was Taylor Jordan, for that matter). Just goes to show how useless all of that endless prospect evaluation can be. Kudos to the Nats organization for not only trading for Roark, but finding a way top harness his raw talent. THIS is what they mean by player development.

    • 1stwilkescountynatsfan - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Not to throw off on what he has done for us this season, but Roark still will not be an attractive trading chip for us yet until he can sustain his good performance for over a longer period of time. I am tickled to death that he is doing well for us now, but I don’t see him sticking on our roster long term. I hope that he can continue to perform at his current level for the rest of the year, but I would hedge against him making the rotation out of spring training next season.

      • Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:13 PM

        I think his value as a trade chip depends on what at least one other GM thinks he sees. If they think they can get a solid starter more cheaply by getting in first, that’s his value. It’s not all about the arithmetic.

        But agreed, if there’s one thing baseball teaches, it’s that there’s no such thing as too much pitching. GMs should always hedge on pitching.

      • dgourds - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:58 PM

        I don’t understand. 1)Why would you trade a 7-0 pitcher who owns your biggest rival (the Braves) and has an ERA just over 1? 2)Why wouldn’t this guy make the rotation next year? Haren is gone. Detweiler never put up these numbers–ever. No other prospect in the organization has shown his poise and pitching smarts. And he does have great stuff. His fastball routinely hit 94 with late life. He hits spots, changes eye levels, and has +++ command of his curve. I would never get rid of this guy until he shows me a reason. Detweiler, Storen, Mattheus, Taylor, Krol, Soriano on the other hand I could trade.

  2. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM

    The Nats need a former prospect — Brad Peacock, now with the Astros — to step up tonight and beat the Reds.

  3. Sec 3, My Sofa - Sep 18, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    I don’t think it’s useless, it’s just not always right, and it’s generally a mistake to rely exclusively on any one way of looking at things. And yeah, it’s just a few months, one of them being September, which, as we all know, lies. But all large sample sizes started as small sample sizes.

    Some guys just hate bus rides. Isn’t that right, Bryce?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      True about small sample sizes but consistency and the end results are what matter.

      The Nats are the hottest team in baseball in a 1/5 sample of the season. The other 4/5 were less than .500 and that gets you nothing. The point is that a 1/5 sample CAN make the difference. Tanner Roark is making a difference in that 1/5 and so are others. It takes a team though.

  4. alexva6 - Sep 18, 2013 at 2:49 PM

    Roark made 26 starts in AAA last year and 11 more this year.

    those who say Taylor Jordan won’t benefit from a trip to Syracuse next year might ask Roark if he learned anything. the results seem to speak for themselves

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