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Roster review: Tanner Roark

Oct 24, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

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Age on Opening Day 2014: 27

How acquired: Trade with RHP Ryan Tatusko from Rangers for SS Cristian Guzman, July 2010

MLB service time: 55 days

2013 salary+bonuses: $490,000

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2017, free agent in 2020

2013 Stats: 14 G, 5 GS, 53.2 IP, 38 H, 11 R, 9 ER, 1 HR, 11 BB, 40 K, 0.913 WHIP, 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 1.4 WAR

Quotable: “Every time he’s gone out there, I’ve liked his work. He’s unfazed. If we boot a ball behind him, he goes right after them. He’s got a heck of a shot next year of making this club.” — Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark

2013 analysis: Barely on the Nationals’ radar when the season began, Roark began to turn heads at Class AAA Syracuse, where he posted a 3.15 ERA. In need of bullpen help in August, the Nats summoned the right-hander, who proceeded to pitch brilliantly every time he was given an opportunity.

In nine relief appearances, Roark posted a 1.19 ERA while holding opponents to a .182 batting average. That earned him a spot in the September rotation, where he continued to dominate. In five starts, he went 3-1 with a 1.74 ERA, leaving him 7-1 overall with a 1.51 ERA.

2014 outlook: There was no reason to even consider Roark as a significant part of the Nationals’ 2014 plans, but now it appears a given he’ll figure into the mix somewhere.

Roark could compete for the fifth starter’s job in spring training, and he certainly earned the right to do that. But he also proved valuable as a long reliever and could fill a real niche there while also being available as an emergency starter on the big-league roster.

  1. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:21 AM

    If you are into the WAR stat his numbers make him the top pitcher per innings pitched. I still watch him with some skepticism because of the sample sizes and I said the same even before his start against the Cardinals.

    • Doc - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:02 AM

      Location, location, location, Ghost.

      It works in running a retail business, and in throwing a white leather ball with seams.

      Still like to know where this guy came from, and what changed him from a run-of-the-mill minor leaguer to a very competitive big leaguer at the ripe old age of 26?????

      If you look at his minor league stats pre-’13 you’d almost think that he should have been considering a career in something besides baseball.

      Hope Tanner becomes SP #5 next season.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:20 AM

        Doc, you read my mind! Remember Tommy Milone? He was a location guy too. I’m just not sold. Detwiler also dazzled for a while with location. It has to be more than that.

        I know what Taylor Jordan is doing and trying to do. Tanner Roark is still an enigma to me. If he has changed something or added something to be a MLB pitcher than maybe I can buy into it. If the Cardinals game on September 23rd was the exception and the Atlanta game on September 17 was the rule then the Nats have a special player.

        5 career starts and 3 were excellent, 1 was poor and 1 was good. Again, small sample size but I am cautiously optimistic.

  2. David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 9:54 AM

    My prediction is that our rotation goes: Stras, Gio, JZimm, Detwiler, Free Agent (order subject to change). Put Roark in the pen as the longman and if anyone goes down he can spot start. If he struggles,you can send a long-man down a whole lot easier than you can a piece of your starting rotation.

    • sjm308 - Oct 24, 2013 at 10:06 AM

      David – I hope you are correct because that would mean that Ross is 1 healthy and 2. dealing. I still think Detwiler would serve us better as a reliever to start next year if he is healthy. He is still basically a one pitch pitcher and I think that screams relief pitcher. I also think there is either a trade brewing or a free agent signing coming. In my faux GM role I move Stammen to the 6th inning, keep Det and Roark in the pen with Clip, Storen and Soriano and one other lefty (again, maybe a free agent or one of the 3 that ended the year with us). My surprise 5th starter is Ohlendorf with that free agent/trade guy as our #4 (or in a dream world we have acquired David Price).

  3. sjm308 - Oct 24, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    It is indeed a great story and I also hope to see him on the major league roster for opening day. Looking at how long we control his rights, its pretty funny that he will not even be arbitration eligible until the age of 30 and if he pitches to free agency he will be 34. There are plenty of pitchers that bloom late and he is hopefully one of those. Ghost is correct that the sample size is small but on the reverse of that, he certainly did nothing to hurt his chances.during that small sample. If that small sample size had produced bad numbers, he would probably never get another chance. Have to be impressed that he was under more pressure then we can know in that this might have been his one big chance and he took that chance and ran with it.

    I remember when we made this trade and the consensus was that we basically got a bag of balls for Guzman and that was actually ok with most. I actually liked Guzman but I sure like this trade a lot more.

    Go Nats

  4. David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

    Interesting article on Wacha and Giolito in the WP. Here’s the link:

    You would assume he would be in the big leagues by 2016 (the first year one of our big 3 is slated to leave–JZimm). Maybe even 2015. Anyway, if you think he’s in the majors by 2016, then you could in theory slot him in to Jordan Zimmermann’s slot in the rotation. Of course, AJ Cole should be up by then too. If he’s not, he may be a bust.

    So the question becomes, how do you justify an 80MM contract (probably the minimum it would take to lock JZimm up) when you have these arms waiting to replace him? I think the Nationals have the money to sign either Strasburg or Zimmermann long-term. Not both. I think we need to wait another year to get a better idea of what exactly Strasburg is. But then if you wait another year, it probably becomes too late to sign JZimm. He would want to just wait and hit free agency.

    There are a lot of moving parts here. No easy decisions.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:30 AM

      Glad you brought up Wacha. Let’s see how he does against the Red Sox. I applaud great scouting and execution. The Dodgers did a poor job adjusting to what St. Louis was doing to them but the Red Sox immediately made an impact because they knew what Wainwright was going to do. On the 3-2 pitch the scouting report said he would throw a chase pitch out of the zone and the batter took a walk. The Cardinals took advantage all series of the Dodgers aggressiveness and in Game 1 the Red Sox executed in every facet of the game.

      Maybe Wacha will throw a 2 hit shutout or maybe the Red Sox will treat him as rudely as Wainwright. Maybe Wacha will have a better career than Giolito or maybe not. He has a head start but the race is very long and nobody knows how the final story will be written.

    • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:51 AM


      I will tell you where I disagree with you. You already know that JZim is a very good 1 or 2 starter who has now had 2 solid major league season on his resume. When you are slotting someone like Cole or Giolito in his space you are taking a leap of faith. I would absolutely sign both Stras and JZim long term and if Cole or Giolito or someone else graduates to the top of the rotation successfully then you have a serious trade chip. Another option is to package the best prospects (remember, they are prospects not stars yet) and acquire a David Price. The window of opportunity is not infinite and the Nats are in it right now.

      • David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:55 AM

        Well there’s simply no way I would trade Giolito. I’m not giving up 6 years of Giolito for 2 years of David Price. I realize that he’s just a prospect, I don’t care.

      • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:44 PM


        How do you know Giolito will be any good? he hasn’t even reached A ball. That’s quite an extrapolation. no? I mean Price has already won a Cy Young and is near the top of the profession.


        When do you determine that the future is now and decide to go all out?


        You will need to give up a lot more than Giolito to get Price because teams will be lined up with prospects a lot closer to major league ready to get their hands on Price.

      • chiefwj - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:00 PM

        Giolito had 3 starts at Auburn (Short Season A) and did very well.

        From his performance so far, there’s no evidence that he won’t be a top level MLB starter. Not to say that he will, but there’s no ceiling on his ability, and nothing happened this year in Viera & Auburn that would support a contrary conclusion.

      • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:20 PM


        absolutely, I agree with everything you say. But you must concede that there is a significant road to traverse before Giolito is major league ready and as AJ Cole has shown; it’s a hard road and there are no guarantees that it has a successful conclusion. David Price on the other hand is already a major league star.

        Fans of all teams have a tendency to over value their own prospects, it’s the same everywhere. When you have a young team which is ready to win now you go for the brass ring, otherwise you are always chasing the future.

  5. Hiram Hover - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:39 AM

    I’m far from sold on Roark, but he seems like exactly the kind of guy who ought to be in the mix for the #5 slot–the possibilities are there and you take a flyer on him, but you go in knowing there’s a good chance it won’t pan out.

    I’d feel more comfortable taking a flyer on Roark at #5 if the #4 slot was more secure, and so I second (or third) David P above about a free agent signing for the rotation.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:41 AM

      What are you doing with Detwiler?

      • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:54 AM

        I think for now Detwiler is slotted as one of the bottom of the rotation guys but as Sam showed the other day his numbers look an awful lot like John Lannan’s (which I guess is OK for the bottom of the rotation).

      • Hiram Hover - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:25 PM

        I don’t know what happens with Detwiler, which is the problem with the #4 slot, and why I’d look to a FA signing/trade to fill that slot..

        Even if Det is healthy–and that’s a big if–maybe he’s better suited to a BP role, as you suggested above, and perhaps gets moved into the rotation if Roark (or whoever is #5) falters.

        I don’t know. I find the uncertainty about Detwiler far more troublesome at this point than Roark.

  6. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 11:52 AM

    If it was my choice, I’m going into Spring Training with who I have and only 3 spots in the rotation set with Stras, Gio and JZim.

    I let Detwiler, TJord, TRoark, and Ohlie compete for the 4 and 5 as I believe they are good enough to compete.

    By the way, all this Lefty/Righty stuff I debated with Peric last off-season is the same, best 5 pitchers. The Cardinals are throwing all Righties in the WS by the way.

    Rizzo and his manager have 7 to choose from and if TJord perfects his cutter and refines his slider he will have top of the rotation stuff. Don’t sell him short.

    • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      I think this may well play out the way you have it drawn up although I am not certain Ohlendorf is ours at this point.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:00 PM

      I left off Nate Karns as I’m sure he will be competing in ST but I don’t see him as getting a spot in the starting 5.

      • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:01 PM

        I like Karns in the pen. I think he can come in throwing in the high 90’s if he only has to go an inning or 2. I think he’s a viable alternative to Matheus.

    • David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:07 PM

      I just don’t understand how we can go into the season with the backend as filled with unknowns.

      Ohlendorf is lucky if he can go 5 innings and his career numbers are awful.
      Roark and Jordan each pitched only 50 innings.
      Detilwer has his injury concerns.

      If it’s one of those, okay. But what happens if you go into the season, Detwiler is hurt and Roark/Jordan aren’t any good? It’s an absolute must to get a veteran FA, I think.

  7. karlkolchak - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:10 PM

    Roark reminds me a little of Ryan Vogelsong, who was a terrible pitcher (and banished to Japan for three years) until the light suddenly went on and he became an All Star at age 33. Granted, Vogelsong was only good for two years, but he was also 6 years older than Roark when it happened and he got a WS ring after beating the Cardinals twice in the NLCS (yes!) and the Tigers once in the WS.

  8. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 12:24 PM

    Ohlendorf deserves a chance to compete. His stats as a starter were decent with his 3.52 ERA. Thats actually darn good for a #5 starter but too many here are disillusioned by great theatre. You don’t need a blazing fastball to be an effective #5. You see what the Nats got the last 2 years with a big name FA with EJAx and Haren. Both over 4+ in ERAs and Haren at 4.70 was the main reason from a pitching perspective the Nats didn’t make the postseason.

    If you look at just starters stats with Stras, Gio, JZim, TJord, Ohlie and TRoark, that group collectively pitched to a 3.199 ERA!!!! That would be #1 in the Majors!

    I wouldn’t trade away the future on David Price. The Nats finally have the arms to do it with depth. If not, Rizzo will have to make a July 31st trade but I’m confident in the Top 3 and what they have for the #4 and #5.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:56 PM

      By the way, I don’t realistically expect Ohlie to be in the starting rotation but I want him as my long man in the pen and move Stammen up to 6th or 7th inning set-up.

  9. David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:05 PM

    This is basically how I’d construct the roster.

    SP- Strasburg, Zimmermann, Gio, Veteran, Detwiler (Roark in the bullpen ready to start if injury, Jordan at AAA to start, but able to come up if he shows continued success and masters the slider)

    RP- Stammen, Clippard, Soriano, Storen, JP Howell, Mike Gonzalez, Roark

    CF- Span
    RF- Harper
    LF- Werth
    1B -LaRoche
    2B- Rendon
    SS- Desmond
    3B- Zimmerman
    C- Ramos, Dionner Navarro (if too expensive, I’m okay going with Solano/Leon)

    Bench- Lombardozzi, Hairston, DeJesus, Moore, someone else

    First, I detailed above why I think we need a veteran. I would not pay the veteran a lot and it would be a 1 year deal. I just don’t like going into the year with so many unknowns at the backend of the rotation.

    Second, I think we need 2 left handed arms in the pen. Mike Gonzalez did not have a good year, but he was VASTLY overused. JP Howell had a very solid year for the Dodgers. If we don’t want to pay for both, that’s fine. Howell and Cedeno/Krol/Abad would work. Make Howell a priority though.

    Third, Dionner Navarro is a FA who always grades very positively on defensive metrics and he can hit a little bit.

    Fourth, the bench. Basically the idea is Span/Harper/Werth OF as it was this year. Then I’d utilize a platoon for when one of those guys goes down. Hairston got so much undeserved hate this year. He can hit off the bench and he can hit for power. He’s valuable to have, but ONLY against lefties. DeJesus would hit against righties. We might have to overpay for DeJesus because it’s not easy to find left handed bench bats and he’d want to start somewhere. But he’s a very solid option and he plays the field well.

    I think that gives us good SP depth, a stronger bullpen and a MUCH improved bench. I wouldn’t go into a full platoon with LaRoche, because Moore has actually hit righties better than lefties in his career. But I would give him some regular start so that he stays fresh.

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:07 PM

      LaRoche at 1st? You lost me at Hello. Let’s say 2013 was a fluke bad year based on his medication which I do believe was a factor but with age regression I don’t think he regains his power stroke. On top of that his defensive range was Poor. That wasn’t caused by weight loss.

      I think the 1st base situation is the #1 issue to deal with this off-season. I gave some solutions like buying Werth a 1st baseman glove—just in case. I also don’t think you entrust 1st base to Tyler Moore as the answer. Worst case LaRoche and Moore platoon.

      • Doc - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        Ghost, platooning ALR with Moore was what Davey initiially had in mind early in the ’12 season—then ALR started to carry the team.

        Time for the new manager to get back to a platoon, and have both reasonably fresh for PHing.

        Don’t know the stats, but it seems reasonable to assume that PHers in the AL probably do better because they have DH opportunities that NL PHers don’t have. Look how Johnny Gomes has flourished in the AL, compared to what he did for the Nats.

        Personally, I thought that ALR was using his psycho-stimulant medication to help him focus on on-field activities at 1B and in the batter’s box. Didn’t seem to work out. He had a comparatively poor year in the field, and at bat.

        As expected, he also appeared to loose weight.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:26 PM

        Doc, great points on Gomes and the AL. I have little confidence in LaRoche. Age regression is nobody’s idea of a good sign for a rebound .

  10. shawndc04 - Oct 24, 2013 at 1:10 PM

    The Nationals could probably get Bronson Arroyo for a reasonable price. What I’ve read indicates that he wants a two year deal at 9-10 million a year, but at 36 I’m not sure anyone will give him two. The Nationals might be able to get him for a year at 9-10 million. I know that Jackson and Haren were mistakes, but Arroyo has been a good innings eater and seems healthy at his age.

  11. Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:36 PM

    JD @ 1:44. The team we saw in August to the end of the year was the team we thought we had except for the slumping LaRoche.

    A healthy Bryce, a higher OBP Span and a consistent Werth in the outfield. RZim was doing much better defensively and Ramos was a RBI machine. Desi was Desi and Rendon was showing the wear. The Nats were looking like a postseason team, just a little too late.

    I think you go for it now and make any needed upgrades at the trade deadline.

    I believe Rizzo needs to fix 1st base now instead of hoping/praying that LaRoche can put up .270/.340/.490/.830 with a positive UZR. I just don’t see it and that is a shame.

    Other than that Rizzo needs bench help with a legit 4th outfielder, backup catcher and some bullpen upgrades.

  12. jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:41 PM


    LaRoche at 1st is likely a reality. I don’t see the Nats pissing away $13 mil in the hope of finding a better solution. I do agree that ALR is on the downside of his career but he may just have one last decent season based on a desire for 1 more contract.

    In the context of going for it next year why would you not consider trading prospects for David Price? doesn’t that get you 4 – 6 extra wins right of the bat?

    • adcwonk - Oct 24, 2013 at 2:56 PM

      I was thinking that, too. We traded a bunch of prospects for Gio. One more trade like that puts us in a pretty good situation, no?

      • David Proctor - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:07 PM

        We would have to give up Rendon and Gioltio for Price. I’m simply not doing that.

      • jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:29 PM


        I am not doing that either but I am interested in something like: Cole, Goodwin and Giolito for Price.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:34 PM

        JD, yes, where do I sign up for that trade?

    • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 3:33 PM

      JD, of course I’m tempted as I love Price. I’d rather not get fleeced on a David Price deal as much as I like him. Look what the Royals gave up for Big Game James! The Nats farm isn’t deep enough to get him. I would give away Giolito and 2 lesser prospects or Storen. No way I give up Rendon.

      I think if an Ace was needed midseason they cost less on July 31st. This year I think the Nats have the depth they need as I expected TJord to be a ROY calibre pitcher.

      • TimDz - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:07 PM

        The Rays only make deals that they win in a landslide…we would have to give up Rendon, plus Giolito, probably a few other prospects like Cole and Goodwin, plus a lifetime supply of Ben’s Chili Cheese fries…

        Not worth it in my book……

      • Doc - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:16 PM

        Ghost, I agree, ARen is a keeeeeeeeeeeeeeper!

        The .230 he hit after his hot start after the 2nd call-up is no indication of his talent. Let’s also not forget that he hit 23 or so 2 baggers in about half a season.

        He also appears to have a great attitude, to go along with his totally gifted left-handed swing from the right side of the plate.

        Thinking that Anthony Rendon will someday be batting champ.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM

        Doc, I think the same way. ARen showed he can stay healthy while being productive. I also see him as a future batting champ and doubles machine.

  13. jd - Oct 24, 2013 at 4:33 PM


    That’s a judgment call. The Rays generally like to move players just before they get expensive by acquiring close to the majors talent and also by signing value free agents. They very well may insist on a Rendon in the Price conversation but my position would be that I’m not giving away anything which I might need to win at the big league level. I am not at all sure that the package I proposed will do it because Texas might dangle Profar who is major league ready but if it’s clear that the Rays are moving DP I’d be there with my proposal.

    I’d go to battle with a rotation of Stras, JZim, Gio and Price any day.

    • nats128 - Oct 24, 2013 at 6:14 PM

      Who wouldn’t want a top pitcher like Price but at what price?

      Starting pitching (other than Haren) wasnt this teams problem. It was offense and the hole is at 1st base.

      I would be looking at James Loney who will be a Free Agent. Hes 29 years old and is a Gold Glove calibre 1st baseman and showed he can hit in the clutch. He isnt the power hitter you want however his splits against RHPs is very good .299/.352/.445/.797 and he would probably hit better in Nats Park and especially this lineup. Loney could actually get better going into his age 30 season.

      Huge defensive upgrade.

      • Ghost of Steve M. - Oct 24, 2013 at 8:04 PM

        I don’t think Loney is a Rizzo type of guy because he isn’t a big HR hitter. I like that he had a hot start to the season. Nats need to get out of the gates quick in 2014.

        Also agree on his defense. Would be a huge upgrade.





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