Mar 18, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
Ross Detwiler, and the Nationals’ decision to put the left-hander in their season-opening bullpen, grabbed yesterday’s headlines. But what about the remaining competitors for the final spot in the Nationals’ Opening Day rotation? How does that situation now sort itself out?
Manager Matt Williams told reporters in Lakeland, Fla., yesterday that the decision will come down to three choices: Tanner Roark, Taylor Jordan and Chris Young.
Let’s run through the pros and cons for each of the remaining candidates…
Pros: He was the most-effective pitcher of this group last season, bursting onto the scene in August and finishing 7-1 with a 1.51 ERA in 11 games (five starts). The 27-year-old right-hander was equally effective as a starter (1.74 ERA, 0.903 WHIP) as he was as a reliever (1.19 ERA, 0.926 WHIP). He doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but he seems to know how to pitch and wasn’t fazed by anything thrown his way upon reaching the big leagues for the first time.
Cons: Given his less-than-dazzling repertoire, Roark probably doesn’t have the highest ceiling as a major-league pitcher. He’s not an ace-in-waiting, but more likely is destined to pitch out of the back of a rotation or even as a long reliever. His minor-league numbers weren’t particularly notable until he finally broke through last summer at Class AAA Syracuse. And talent evaluators always caution against giving too much credence to September performances, considering the low-pressure situations and sometimes unimpressive lineups they face.
Chance of being No. 5 starter: 55 percent.
Pros: Despite opening 2013 at Class A Potomac, Jordan pitched so well he merited a quick promotion to Class AA Harrisburg and then a spot in D.C. due to injuries to Detwiler and Dan Haren. The 25-year-old more than held his own in his rookie campaign, posting a 3.66 ERA in nine starts and reaching the sixth inning in seven of his final eight outings. With a heavy sinker highlighting his arsenal, Jordan is a groundball machine and the kind of pitcher who can become a consistent winner at the big-league level.
Cons: Jordan’s ascension was so abrupt last summer, he still has made only 15 minor-league appearances above low-Class A and hasn’t spent a single day at Class AAA. He has some impressive raw stuff, but he still lacks polish and pitching acumen. He also had Tommy John surgery in the minors and has a throwing motion that makes some evaluators worry he is susceptible to more arm injuries.
Chance of being No. 5 starter: 40 percent.
Pros: By far the most experienced pitcher in this competition, the 34-year-old has made 159 starts in the big leagues, sports a 3.79 career ERA and was an All-Star for the Padres in 2007. After dealing with shoulder injuries for several years, Young is now healthy at last and a candidate to recapture his old form.
Cons: It’s now been six years since Young was an effective, big-league pitcher. He was supposed to be healthy last season and serve as the Nationals’ top option at Class AAA Syracuse but had a 7.88 ERA in seven starts and missed the rest of the year due to injury. Even when healthy, his fastball sits in Livan Hernandez territory.
Chance of being No. 5 starter: 5 percent.
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