John "Cool Hand" Lannan's Improbable Journey...
The Washington Nationals selected John Lannan with the 324th overall pick in the 11th Round of the 2005 MLB Amateur Draft. The 6'5'', 200 lb left-hander out Siena College and originally Long Beach, NY, was coming off a (10-2) '05 campaign with the Siena Saints (as in St. Bernards) in which he'd posted a 2.29 ERA in 12 starts and 1 relief appearance while striking out 83, walking 28 and throwing 8 complete games, 2 of which were shutouts.
Lannan got a quick mention at the end of MLB.com's Bill Ladson's article on the '05 Nationals' Draft class entitled, "Nationals excited with draft results", which, of course, focused on the #1 overall selection, third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, as well as outfielders Justin Maxwell and Ryan DeLaughter, right-handed starters Marco Estrada, Scott Barnes and Robert Leonhardt, and left-hander Jack Spradlin, with John Lannan described as, "...the other lefty they(Washington) drafted in the 11th round," though DC's Scouting Director Dana Brown praised both of DC's left-handed selections:
"'It's just tough to get left-handed pitching. There were a lot of other lefties on the board, but they were relievers,' Brown said. 'We felt those two starters we drafted had fastball command. That's why we went after them.'"
After going (3-5) with a 5.26 ERA in his first 14 professional appearances with the Nationals' Class-A affilliate in Vermont in 2005, Lannan was just (6-8) with a 4.70 ERA in 25 starts in his first full season with the Class-A Savannah Sand Gnats in 2006, but his (6-0) start with Class-A Potomac in '07 earned him a call-up to Double-A Harrisburg, and he soon jumped again, to Triple-A Columbus, all before July 26th when an injury to DC starter Jason Simontacchi led the Nationals to call upon John Lannan, who was by then considered the top pitching prospect in their organization, though five pitchers (C. Balester, C. Willems, Z. Zinicola, G. Gibson and M. Chico -who had already debuted in April '07-) had been ranked ahead of Lannan in the January '07 edition of Baseball America's Top Ten Prospects list which was compiled by BA writer Aaron Fitt.
Nationals' Manager Manny Acta heaped praise on Lannan before his MLB debut in another article by MLB.com's Bill Ladson entitled, "Nationals to give Lannan a shot", where Mr. Acta was quoted as stating:
"The kid has taken every challenge that we have thrown at him, so far. He has pitched well at every level. Our baseball people down there feel that he is ready to come up...[He is] one of the guys that is going to be part of the future...according to everything we heard, and the way he has pitched this year, he is going to be part of the plan."
With an ejection in his debut against Philadelphia, the result of back to back hit batters, Lannan quickly endeared himself to the DC Faithful, and he impressed enough in his first 6 MLB starts that even though he was shut down for the season in Mid-August, merely as a precautionary measure, he was considered a front-runner for a spot in the starting rotation heading into Spring Training in '08.
Lannan lost out to Matt Chico (and his new/old high leg kick delivery) in a battle for the last spot in the Nationals' starting rotation, and was set to start the '08 season with Triple-A Columbus, but he only had time to throw a simulated game before being called back up to DC in the wake of a series injuries to Nationals' pitchers. Upon being recalled, the same command which had originally caught Scouting Director Dana Brown's attention back in 2005 was cited by DC Manager Manny Acta as the one of the main reasons Lannan was being brought back to the majors, as he told MLB.com's Bill Ladson in an article entitled, "Lannan happy to be back in majors":
"'[I like] his command. It's very good for a guy his age, especially being left-handed,' manager Manny Acta said. 'He is able to hit that glove consistently and he shows no fear.'"
31 starts, a (9-15) record and a 3.91 ERA with 117 K's, 72 walks and a 1.34 WHIP later, Lannan had earned himself a spot in the '09 rotation as the only returning starter that we know, or at least assume, will be on the mound for Washington in '09. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan wrote Saturday, in an article entitled, "Nats Seek Stable Set Of Arms", that Lannan has, "...a lock on a rotation spot," but don't tell that to Lannan, who, Mr. Harlan writes, has, "...never dared to let himself feel entrenched," though DC Manager Manny Acta hinted yesterday, in an interview with XM MLB Live Weekend host Casey Stern, that Lannan, Scott Olsen and Daniel Cabrera are set in 3 of the 5 rotation spots as of right now. We'll just have to wait and see how the rotation looks after six weeks of Spring Training...
(ed. note - "For those of you who like going deeper into stats, Doghouse has been leading the Federalbaseball.com W.A.R. Effort, and he put together his pitching projections in an article entitled, "Pitching for W.A.R" about a month ago now, which contains the Marcels and CHONE projections for the DC Starting Rotation as well as the official W.A.R Spreadsheet which is being developed under the guidance of the SB Nation's Beyond the Boxscore.")
The Mailbox Is An Inbox Now...
MLB.com's Bill Ladson is back once again, but not with the "Mailbox", this time around it's the, "Inbox: Who will play first in '09", which features a question from someone known as Bern D., (aka Berndaddy, a regular voice in the Federalbaseball.com Comments sections), who asks Mr. Ladson whether or not the Nationals will pursue hitters in this year's draft to compliment the legion of arms DC has in its system, with Mr. Ladson responding that if you asked the Nationals' Asst. GM or Scouting Director, they'd say that they'll draft the best available player with each pick, but in Mr. Ladson's opinion:
"I'm sure they will go after hitters, but I expect them to draft an equal amount of pitchers like they have in previous years."
And Mr. Ladson then fields a question from yours truly, "Ed in New Jersey", who was wondering, "If Joel Hanrahan can't hold onto the closer role, who's next in line for a chance as Washington's stopper?" Mr. Ladson's response:
"I asked Acta the same question Sunday afternoon. He will not know until the end of Spring Training. Right-hander Shawn Hill could do a great job in the role if Hanrahan falters. The guy is all business on the mound and I believe his arm could withstand pitching an inning or two in a game."
I've speculated this offseason that Jason Bergmann could end up in a relief role, but I hadn't considered Hill for a bullpen spot, though now that Mr. Ladson mentions it, such a move could lessen the load on Hill's oft-injured right arm. Washington Post writer Chico Harlan's broached the same subject with Hill in a Nationals Journal post entitled, "How is Shawn's arm", where Mr. Harlan wrote, "...if he's healthy, he figures he can be in the rotation," but, "...if he's not in the rotation, he won't complain."
DC Closer Shawn Hill? It could happen...(Though I'm 100% in "Wild" Joel Hanrahan's corner...")
10 Days away from the first game of Spring...2/25/09 @ Houston...
?'s For the DC Faithful...
What do you expect from John Lannan in '09?
Do you expect Shawn Hill to move to the pen? What about Jason Bergmann?
Any other starters you think would be better suited to a bullpen role? (ed. note - "I'm looking at you Daniel Cabrera?)