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Roster review: Nathan Karns

Nov 23, 2013, 9:42 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 26

How acquired: Draft (12th round), June 2009

MLB service time: 15 days

2013 salary+bonuses: N/A

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

2013 Stats: 3 G, 7.50 ERA, 12.0 IP, 17 H, 11 R, 10 ER, 5 HR, 6 BB, 11 SO, 1.917 WHIP, 0-1, HBP, FIP 8.38, -0.4 WAR

2013 analysis: In need of a starting pitcher after Ross Detwiler suffered an oblique injury, the Nationals called up Nathan Karns to make his major league debut against the Orioles on May 28. He was decent in his first start, doing enough to help the Nats beat Baltimore 9-3, but found trouble in his second two outings before getting sent back down in early June.

Karns was the first minor league starting pitcher the Nats called on in 2013, but proved to be the least effective. Both Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan were much better and now sit ahead of Karns on the organizational depth chart. Late in the year Davey Johnson talked about Karns’ command issues and how he will have to improve his control to get back to the big leagues. “He was not ready. He has command issues. Stuff’s okay. But he has command issues,” Johnson said.

2014 outlook: The Nationals have yet to fill out their rotation by signing a free agent, so as of now it looks like an opportunity for a homegrown competition. Karns would certainly fit in that mix if that is the case, but would not be a favorite to emerge. Both Roark and Jordan had much better rookie seasons and stuck with the team longer because of it. Karns would have to have a great offseason and spring training to regain his status as the next man up.

Karns showed in his brief time in Washington he has good velocity with a fastball in the mid-90s, a decent changeup and a curveball that needs some work. Because his arsenal is limited, opponents picked up on his fastball with five home runs in just 12 total innings. Unless Karns’ develops his secondary pitches, his future in the majors could be in the bullpen. Only one of his earned runs was allowed in the first inning in the three games he pitched, with a steep drop-off afterwards. Perhaps Karns could follow Craig Stammen who found his niche as a relief pitcher.

  1. TimDz - Nov 23, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Nats released Yunesky Maya….not a shocker…

  2. sjm308 - Nov 23, 2013 at 12:36 PM

    The more I think about it, the more I am in favor of putting more of our young arms in the bullpen to begin their major league careers. They can throw hard for one or two innings and then work on second or third pitches in their time in the pen. The Rays do this, the Cards do this. I think we will see both Solis and Purke go this route as well so why not Karns?

    • Eugene in Oregon - Nov 23, 2013 at 11:05 PM

      Earl Weaver always favored this approach.

  3. Theophilus T.S. - Nov 23, 2013 at 1:39 PM

    I never saw anything last season that spelled, “Nathan Karns, Major League starter.” The Nats have a lot of pitchers, now moving into the high minors, whose careers have been delayed because they were drafted out of college and/or were injured. Karns has had barely 300. minor league innings over three seasons. The K and WHIP ratios have been outstanding. One full season at Syracuse against veteran hitters will probably prove whether he can learn “command.” If he does, he can probably have an excellent Major League as either a starter or a reliever.





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