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Roster preview: Tanner Roark

Feb 7, 2014, 7:21 AM EST

Photo by USA Today Photo by USA Today

Age on Opening Day 2014: 27

How acquired: Trade with Texas Rangers, July 2010

2014 salary: N/A

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

2014 storyline: Tanner Roark was one of the biggest surprises for the Nationals in 2013. He came up from Syracuse with a career 4.04 ERA in the minors, but quickly became a standout at the major league level. He was so good that Davey Johnson awarded him five starts in September, an audition in which he aced.

Now Roark enters 2014 hoping to remain in the rotation, but he’ll have to beat out some other qualified candidates first. Roark, along with Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan, are expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Depending on how you look at it, Roark could have a very good chance considering how he finished the year. He outshined Jordan and Detwiler’s season was plagued by injury. We’ll see who comes out on top.

Best-case scenario: Roark would very much like to win that fifth starter’s job, as the alternative could mean beginning the year in Syracuse. Then again, he was even better as a reliever (1.19 ERA, .182 BAA) as he was starting games (1.74 ERA, .216 BAA) last season. A best-case scenario, however, would have Roark winning the rotation job, making over 20 starts and logging somewhere around 160 innings over the course of the year. If he were able to hold an ERA in the mid-3.00s along the way, he could make sure there’s no competition for the spot this time next year.

Worst-case scenario: Roark is a low-key guy and wouldn’t make a fuss about not making the roster out of spring. But no player wants to go back to Triple-A after experiencing life in the big leagues. A worst-case scenario for Roark would be a trip back to Syracuse and an unsuccessful stay while he’s there. Roark was good with the Chiefs last year (3.15 ERA in 105 2/3 innings), but the year before went 6-17 with a 4.39 ERA. Those numbers wouldn’t exactly turn heads in the front office if things are going well down in D.C.

Most-likely scenario: As long as Roark comes into spring pitching like he did last year, it’s going to be very hard for Matt Williams and the Nationals to keep him off the roster. What he brings to the table is far too valuable. Even if Detwiler earns the fifth spot, Roark will likely be on the staff as a long reliever and the first man up in case of an injury to the rotation. I’d expect him to fill a variety of roles over the course of the season and end up with around 10 starts, 80 innings pitched and an ERA in the low-3.00s.

  1. unterp - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:31 AM

    I am not as enamored with Ross Ohlendorf as I am with Tanner. I vote Roark for the 5th starter over the other contenders. A lot of you might think I’m crazy, but you know who would be an outstanding closer, Ross Detwiler…

  2. sjm308 - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:40 AM

    I keep looking at his numbers and I realize 50+ innings is not a huge sample size but just think if he comes in this year & does that again!! WooooHoooo’s will be flying around here.

    Most will cite numbers showing a return to his norms but what if Roark figured something out? It could easily happen that he keeps getting better instead of getting worse.

    Go Nats!

    • bowdenball - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM

      If Roark were to repeat his 2013 performance because he figured something out, the “something” he would have to “figure out” would be how to sustain and repeat a .243 BABIP and a 2.6% HR/FB ratio.

      If he actually figured this out he would completely revolutionize the sport and would win every Cy Young from 2014 until he either retired or someone else figured out his secret.

      I doubt this is the case. Instead I suspect it was, as you say, just a small sample size.

  3. water47 - Feb 7, 2014 at 7:56 AM

    So, I am surprised at the silence from Mark Zuckerman and Chase Hughes vis a vis the MASN deal and MLB re-balancing payment.

    The MASN deal has been somewhat a hot button for the commentators on this site and Nats fans in general.
    Maybe, they are doing a little deeper research on the truthfulness of the Jonah Keri article but a number of major MLB news sites have done something with the story. So, I do wonder for the first time what is going on?

    But then I thought, Dan Kolko and MASN etc not reporting on it combined with the Post passing on this means something strange must be going on.

    Hmmm…. IMHO Mark has been the best and most consistent reporter on the Nationals so I Strange indeed. Mayb

    • utecutec - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      Jim Duquette said something that shocked me on XM Radio yesterday, although I should be beyond shockability when it comes to Peter Angelos. He said that there have been occasions – plural – when Angelos simply refused to pay money that he was obligated to pay. That even if some sort of process resulted in the judgment that he owed money, including to players (again, plural) that he would simply not pay it. He didn’t talk about the consequences of these moves, but the implication was that the parties must have chosen not to sue him.

      With that history Duquette found it inconceivable that Angelos would renegotiate the MASN deal or even if it were renegotiated or somehow MLB were involved in changing the terms he would simply refuse. “There is NO WAY Angelos will sell any more of MASN to the Nationals or renegotiate in any substantial way.” (my best recollection of the quote).

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:44 AM

        And that’s exactly what’s happening with the five-year reset of broadcast fees, i.e., Peter Angelos refusing to pay money that the owes.

      • Nats128 - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:21 AM

        That makes sense. Angelos mentions PUBLIC lawsuit and MLB can’t allow that to happen which leads to MLB bridging the gap in a payment to the Nats.

        We still don’t know the details of the payola and doubtful it brings the Nats close to the new RSN deals that are getting done.

        What I still find more interesting is Jonah Keri’s numbers he claims MASN brings in vs Comcast MidAtlantic per subscriber. Comcast almost doubles MASN in what subscribers pay and as Keri points out Comcast subscribers only get Caps and Wizards while MASN subscribers get Nats and Os.

        Sounds like MASN has untapped dollars to easily double subscriber revenues and payout the Nats based on that.

        Who’s doing MASN’s negotiations with cable? Mr Magoo?

      • Jb - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:01 AM

        Comcast is owned by NBC and offers a lot more than Caps and Wiz. They have a nightly year-round Sportscenter type show. They send reporters out to cover the Nats, Skins and Ravens. MASN does none of that. They barely cover the Nats and O’s. In order for MASN to command the same cable fees as Comcast, they would have to seriously up their game.

    • Budtsmear - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:16 AM

      If you thought Dan Kolko, who works for MASN, would write about the debacle and the MLB hush money or what ever it is – a situation that makes the Oriole ownership look like pretty big dorks in my opinion – I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

      • water47 - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:14 AM


        Unfortunately, I pressed post before final editing and then got busy. My point was meant to say it is not surprising that Kolko and MASN passed but the fact that WashPost and Mark/Chase etc have all passed is surprising.Unless, they are either looking for sources or the story is not really true. They, Mark/Chase/WashPost.CSN, are independent from MASN/O’s/Nats/MLB and although they may not want to hurt their standing with the organization they report the news/event fairly evenly. And, another set of reporters/blogger and MLBTradeRumors have all stepped in to the discussion. Why would they feel they must hold back?


        The deal was struck in the infancy of MASN and if I remember correctly was not even HD or carried on main tier(s) for awhile. I think it was like on FIOS 1 for a while (althought that may have just been the Nats on MASN2). Back then, the team was horrible and struggle with viewership add to that the O’s medicority and the fledgling network was negotiating from a weakness. Now, things have changed. Both teams have demonstrated recent success and the Nats fan base has grown substantially. That would lead others to think that the next deal will be far better.

    • natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:36 AM

      imo, not strange given that they work for CSN and at one point CSN (Comcast) was reportedly involved in negotiations about MASN tv rights:

      • natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:37 AM

        (not strange that Mark and Chase did not weigh in on the situation here)

      • natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        Weird that I can’t see my post with CSN/MASN tv rights story links unless I log in. Maybe there were too many URLs.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:59 AM

        The only post of yours in this thread that I can see is a parenthetical addition or correction at 9:37 a.m.

      • natsfan1a - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:07 AM

        Thanks, Eugene. Maybe interested folks can find the stories to which I linked by searching on some combination of “Comcast,” “MASN,” and “negotiations.” Maybe add in “Fox Sports” as well, as they were mentioned in some of the pieces.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:09 AM

        Your 9:36 a.m. post is now visible (to me, at least).

      • unterp - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:36 PM

        I’ll say this about Angelos if the above reports are true about his unwillingness to pay up and no one takes him to court, why don’t the Lerners go to CSN and negotiate their own baseball deal? What is keeping them from doing this? If Angelos is refusing to honor his contract the Lerners do not have an obligation to stay with MASN…amarite?

    • natsjackinfl - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:25 PM

      Totally agree, jd on MASN and their programming. I don’t ever watch ESPN News on the ESPN station. Why on earth would I watch it on MASN?

  4. dgourds - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:11 AM

    I’m very optimistic about Roark. I know 50+ innings isn’t a huge sample, but he was just awsome last year. So poised. I really think he could eventually be a number 2 or 3 starter. I see him as Maddox-like pitcher. Throws to contact with impecable control, commands 3 pitches and consistently can hit 94 with a heavy 2 seamer. What is not to love about this guy? The only thing he didn’t do last year is miss bats. I see that as a positive. He’ll throw less pitches that way and eat more innings. The only thing Det has on him is being lefty. I would LOVE to see him get the 5th spot. Im my mind, we would htave the best rotation in baseball 1-5.

    • Doc - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:30 AM

      Ditto me dgourds on Roark’s comparisons to Maddux. The ‘kid’ has location on his side. Still like to know the back story on his being a late bloomer.

      Anybody have some stats on how he did in the recent Venezuela Winter League?

  5. tcostant - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:27 AM

    Intetest article despite the Nationals past late addition not being included:

  6. Section 222 - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:35 AM

    Is Tanner Roark for real? That’s one of the big questions of the spring. He had ace-like numbers in his small sample size last year. I don’t expect he would do anything near that in a full season, and I make Det the favorite for the fifth starter spot. Nonetheless, it does seem possible that Roark wins a spot in the bullpen though. If so, Ohlendorf would be the odd man out. That’s ok with me.

  7. Faraz Shaikh - Feb 7, 2014 at 9:42 AM

    yeah i have high hopes from TR.

  8. jd - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:18 AM

    Roark’s numbers at the big league level last year were by far better than anything he’s done in 5 years in the minors. As SJM said it could be that he’s figured something out but it also could be that he hit a hot streak and will return to his normal numbers over a longer period of time. Remember Roark’s BABIP was .243 which ain’t happening over an extended period of time, his strike out to walk ratio was around the same as it always has been which really points to the fact that he was very lucky with balls hit into play.

    • Nats128 - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:31 AM

      Right you are and a reason to be concerned. Short term success in baseball can be more a factor of the league not catching up to scouting. Tanner’s 2nd to last start could point to that or it could be chalked up to 1 bad outing.

      If Roark indeed perfected a new pitch when he got called up then I might buy into the hype.

      Not to be Debbie Downer but I think it’s Door #1 Monte.

      • sjm308 - Feb 7, 2014 at 10:42 AM

        While I am not predicting his continued success, I am not concerned either. My point was – Just Think How Great It Would Be If This Was Not Luck! I am not that optimistic to think he would end up as our #2 starter but it sure will be interesting to see how it develops.

        I do agree with jd after seeing that .243 BABIP # that he had some luck as well but again, stranger things have happened.

        Can’t wait to get this season going!

        Natsjack & others, please get ready to post!!!!

  9. NatsLady - Feb 7, 2014 at 11:49 AM

    Luis Ayala to a minor-league deal.

    Andrew Rickli ‏@AndrewRickli
    Luis Ayala has signed with the #Nationals a minor league deal. @JonHeymanCBS said they were close.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Feb 7, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      Depth? Value? Or a piece of something larger? Enquiring minds want to know.

  10. unterp - Feb 7, 2014 at 1:38 PM

    I’ll say this about Angelos if the above reports are true about his unwillingness to pay up and no one takes him to court, why don’t the Lerners go to CSN and negotiate their own baseball deal? What is keeping them from doing this? If Angelos is refusing to honor his contract the Lerners do not have an obligation to stay with MASN…amarite?

    • Steady Eddie - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:40 PM

      unterp, problem with that is that no other company, CSN or anyone else, would be willing to sign a contract with the Lerners when the MASN agreement is still out there.

      The reason is that they would instantly become a party to Angelos’ inevitable lawsuit against the Lerners, and likely would get hit with an interference with contract suit themselves.

      Their reasonable view is going to be, let the Lerners figure out how to get free of the MASN deal first, and then we’ll be happy to talk to them.

  11. dgourds - Feb 7, 2014 at 2:32 PM

    Like I said, hits a lot of bats. But he’s hard to square with a heavy sinker and good change up and slider. It doesn’t surprise me his babip is low. I hear what everyone is saying about reverting to his previous norm, but sometimes pitchers do figure things out. When you actually watch him pitch, you have to be impressed with his unflappable poise. That’s what most makes me a believer. He’s got ice water veins. In contrast, look at Detweiler’s eyes when he pitches. Lots going on in his head while he pitches. And while 50+ innings isn’t a huge sample, he did make 15 appearances of which he only had one poor outing. When has Det ever had a 15 appearance streak that good? Never. Det had one good appearance in a playoff game and otherwise has been an average, injury prone lefty pitcher with command of one pitchIif he’sIucky. I’d rather use Det out of the pen as a lefty specialist, or even trade him while his stock is relatively high. Many teams have inquired about him in the past. I’m’ sold on Roark over Det. I promise to eat my words at midseason if I’m wrong, but I don’t think i will.

  12. ArVAFan - Feb 7, 2014 at 3:49 PM

    I hope he’s figured it out, and I agree about that focus on the mound. I recently re-watched a game where he was the only pitcher (Nats or opponent) pitching weil that afternoon. I think Davey took him out too early: if he isn’t a starter, he’s a good long relief. Gio didn’t have it that day–and neither did our late-inning guys. We won, but only by one run.

  13. letswin3 - Feb 7, 2014 at 8:08 PM

    I hope Roark wins the 5th starter position while Det shows that his health is not a question mark as the season begins. Det has been very effective the first time through the order, and then shown a tendency to get wacked around a little ……. sounds like a lights out long lefty out of the pen and a real prospect (along with Storen?) to assume the closer spot in ’15. But if Roark isn’t the final starter, and Det is again healthy, I’m comfortable with him as the starter. And there looks to be lots of depth moving up the ladder if any of those that come North falter.





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