Nov 23, 2013, 9:42 AM EDT
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.
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