Nationals' Starter Taylor Jordan Is A Ground Ball Machine

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Taylor Jordan got tons of grounders and kept the ball in the park. The Washington Nationals think Doug Fister will be a perfect fit with an improved infield defense. Will Jordan join Fister in the Nats' rotation in 2014? He certainly impressed with his work last season...

Taylor Jordan's sort-of-out-of-nowhere 2013 campaign came to end after an August 16th start against Atlanta when the 24-year-old right-hander was shut down after having thrown 142 total innings in his first year back from Tommy John surgery. His season came to more of a "Jordan Zimmermann" end than a Stephen Strasburg-ish one in that no one questioned the decision to shut him down when the Nats did.

"His key is keeping the ball down. When he gets the ball up, sometimes he gets the ball up and tries to throw harder..." - Davey Johnson on Taylor Jordan

Jordan threw 90 1/3 innings in the minors, inducing 138 groundouts from the 210 batters he faced, and 51 2/3 IP for the Washington Nationals after the '09 9th Round pick made his MLB debut on June 24th in New York's Citi Field, dropping a decision to the Mets. Jordan started the season at High-A Potomac, where he was (2-1) with a 1.24 ERA, 2.46 FIP, six walks (1.49 BB/9) and 29 Ks (7.18 K/9) in 36 1/3 IP, got promoted to Double-A Harrisburg where he went (7-0) with a 0.83 ERA, 2.39 FIP, nine walks (1.50 BB/9) and 43 Ks (7.17 K/9) in 54 IP and was then called up to pitch for the Nationals.

Jordan's season ended with a six-inning outing against the Braves in which he got 11 groundouts from the 26 batters he faced, leaving him with 79 of 152 outs in the majors recorded via groundout. Jordan's first stint with the Nationals ended after nine starts with him (1-3) with 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 over which he was worth +0.7 fWAR. In his 142 total innings on the mound in 2013, he allowed just four home runs total (0.25 HR/9), three in the majors. Jordan finished (9-1) with a combined 1.00 ERA in 15 games (14 of them starts) in the minors, earning recognition as the Nationals' 2013 Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

"I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet. He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count." - Davey Johnson on Taylor Jordan, August 2013

Davey Johnson told reporters after Jordan's next-to-last start of the year, a five-inning outing against the Phillies in which he gave up seven hits and four runs, that the right-hander hadn't realized yet just how good a pitcher he really could be. "I like all his pitches," Johnson said "and he had a good slider tonight. I don't think he knows how good his stuff is yet. He relies a lot on the catcher about where to go to and he doesn't think about the count. Sometimes he goes to throw hard instead of just locate with that good sink and when he gets in that good rhythm... "

He gets groundouts in bunches.

"He's got a great arsenal," Johnson continued. "I really like his weapons."

"His key is keeping the ball down," Johnson said. "When he gets the ball up, sometimes he gets the ball up and tries to throw harder and [Steve McCatty] tells him, 'Just keep the ball down.' You know, he's got great sink."

What Jordan did in 2013 was put himself in the mix to help out at the major league level again this season whether or not he starts the year in Washington.

Nationals' General Manager Mike Rizzo mentioned Jordan's name last month in a conversation with reporters after the acquisition of Doug Fister, which gave the Nats a number of starters to choose from for the fifth spot in the 2014 rotation. "'We have great depth at that spot," Rizzo told nationals.com's Bill Ladson. "'When you talk about [Ross] Detwiler, [Tanner] Roark, Jordan, [Nathan] Karns and Sammy Solis and the younger wave of guys that could get here in the future, I feel good about where we are at.'"

Taylor Jordan has to be happy with where he's at after his first full season back following Tommy John surgery.

In July, Rizzo told reporters, including MASNSports.com's Byron Kerr, that Jordan would be in the mix for the rotation in 2014.

"'He has pitched extremely well,'" Rizzo said. "'I like his demeanor on the mound. He shows poise of a major league pitcher and has the stuff for it.'" The fact that he has never pitched at Triple-A might make Jordan seem a more likely choice to start the season in the minors, especially since Detwiler's out of options, and Jordan's not likely to work out of the pen like Roark or Ross Ohlendorf might, but he proved to the Nationals he could compete in the majors and he'll likely be up at some point this season if he doesn't win a job out of Spring Training. How big a role will the young ground ball machine play for the 2014 Nationals?

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