Nationals' 2014 Rotation: Do The Nats Need To Find Another Starter?

Jim McIsaac

The Nationals have options like Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Nathan Karns, Ross Ohlendorf (maybe) and Tanner Roark, but do they need to add another starter to the mix for 2014? Are the Nats' in-house options enough?

In what was expected to be a breakout season after last October's breakthrough performance in 2012 and especially Game 4 of the NLDS, Ross Detwiler has struggled with oblique and disc issues in his back which have limited the 27-year-old, '07 1st Round pick to 13 starts in which he has a 4.04 ERA, a 3.66 FIP, five home runs (0.63 HR/9) and 14 walks (1.77 BB/9) allowed and 39 K's (4.92 K/9) collected in 71 1/3 IP. He hasn't pitched since July 3rd though.

Detwiler told reporters this weekend that he hoped to return at some point before the season ends after he threw off the mound for the first time since going on the DL. Davey Johnson was quoted in an article by Washington Post reporter Adam Kilgore saying that, "Detwiler will need three or four bullpen sessions and a simulated game before he can pitch in a game," and if he does it will be in a relief role. What about 2014? Hip surgery in 2010. Back issues in 2013. How confident can the Nationals be that Detwiler can be a regular member of the rotation next season? Is he one of the top four starters going into spring training next year after he was considered part of the rotation from the start for the first time this season?

"'He’s got good stuff, good command. He’s still very young at it, but he showed that he belongs up here.'" - Davey Johnson to the Washington Post on Taylor Jordan

With Detwiler, Stephen Strasburg and Dan Haren all missing time on the DL this season, after the Nationals made it through a 2012 campaign in which each of their starters was relatively healthy, Nathan Karns, Taylor Jordan, Ross Ohlendorf and Tanner Roark have filled in when needed. Karns, 25, had a 7.50 ERA, a 8.38 FIP, 4.50 BB/9 and 8.25 K/9 in three starts and 12 IP in which he seemed a bit overwhelmed at times, but on the year at Double-A Harrisburg, the '09 12th Round pick has a 3.26 ERA, a 3.48 FIP, 14 HRs (0.95 HR/9), 48 walks (3.26 BB/9) and 155 Ks (10.52 K/9) in 23 starts and 132 2/3 IP.

Taylor Jordan, 24, the Nats' '09 9th Round pick, was (2-1) with a 1.24 ERA, a 2.46 FIP, one home run (0.25 HR/9), six walks (1.49 BB/9) and 29 Ks (7.18 K/9) in 36 1/3 IP at High-A Potomac. At Double-A before he was called up to the majors, the right-hander had a (7-0) record with a 0.83 ERA, a 2.39 FIP, nine walks (1.50 BB/9) and 43 Ks (7.17 K/9) in 54 IP in which didn't allow a single home run. In nine starts with the Nationals, Jordan had a 3.66 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 11 walks (1.92 BB/9) and 29 Ks (5.05 K/9) in 51 2/3 IP in which opposing hitters took just three pitches (0.52 HR/9) out of the yard.

Asked if he'd earned consideration for the 2014 rotation with his performance in 2013, Johnson told reporters, including the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, after Jordan was shut down for the year in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery that the young pitcher had definitely left a good impression. "'No question about it,'" Johnson said. 'He’s got good stuff, good command. He’s still very young at it, but he showed that he belongs up here.'"

Ross Ohlendorf, who turned 31 in August, signed as a free agent in January 2013. In 14 games, 13 starts and 74 2/3 IP at Triple-A Syracuse this season, the veteran right-hander had a 4.22 ERA, a 3.49 FIP, 30 walks (3.62 BB/9) and 71 Ks (8.56 K/9). In 14 games and five starts in the majors this season, he's (3-0) with a 3.28 ERA, a 3.90 FIP, six home runs (1.09 HR/9), 12 walks (2.19 BB/9) and 36 Ks (6.57 K/9) in 49 1/3 IP. Ohlendorf's back in a long relief role now after a DL stint for shoulder inflammation. Will he be back?

"It's one thing to have good stuff, but the best thing in the world is to have good command." - Davey Johnson on Tanner Roark

Tanner Roark, 26, an '08 25th Round pick acquired in a July 2010 trade with the Rangers, had a (9-3) record and two saves in 33 games, 11 of them starts at Triple-A before he was called up to the majors. In 105 2/3 IP with the Nationals' top affiliate, the right-hander had a 3.15 ERA, a 3.00 FIP, 20 walks (1.70 BB/9) and 84 Ks (7.15 K/9). With the Nats, Roark is (5-0) in 10 games, including his first major league start this past weekend. In 28 2/3 IP, he has a 0.94 ERA, a 2.18 FIP, seven walks (2.20 BB/9) and 23 Ks (7.22 K/9). Is he better suited for a starting role or a relief role next season?

Can the Nationals piece together the fourth and fifth spots in their rotation with Detwiler, Jordan, Roark and the next "wave" of pitchers in the organization that are on their way up and pitching at Double-A this season including A.J. Cole, Taylor Hill and Robbie Ray? 2010 2nd Round pick Sam Solis? Or do the Nationals need to go out and sign another starter after two seasons of first Edwin Jackson and then Dan Haren failing to meet expectations?

Washington Post writer Thomas Boswell discussed the Nationals' issues with starting depth in this afternoon's chat with WaPost readers:

"They knew they had to replace Jackson. Haren was their only major move. They went into the season "thin" at starting pitcher after the top five. And they certainly paid for it."

The Washington Post reporter went on to say that the Nats believe in their in-house talent, "Though they clearly need another [starting pitcher] with Haren leaving." Agree? Disagree? Any ideas on a no.4-5 the Nationals could go after this winter? Are you sure Haren's on the way out now after his last few starts? He'd surely take a qualifying offer if the Nats made it now, right?

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