Monday, August 2, 2010

The Future of Nationals' Rotation

(Photo Courtesy Reuters)

This is a post that seems to be a bit overdue, yet premature at the same time. I think it's worth exploring here after the trade deadline, though. We'll certainly explore it again in the future. With the Washington Nationals newest aquisition, Yuniesky Maya, it appears that the Nationals could have the best problem in the world next season: too many starting pitchers.

Going into 2011, the Washington Nationals #1 and #2 slots are basically set for Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann. Not much debate in NatsTown there. But 3, 4, and 5 are wide open. Last week, the Nats signed Yuniesky Maya to a major-league contract after he defected from Cuba. Maya was the #1 pitcher for the Cuban National Team in 2009 and according to the Nationals press release "...earned Cuba's equivalent of the Cy Young during his final season in his homeland, going 13-4 with seven complete games and a 2.22 ERA."

Now all of a sudden the rotation is in flux. Like I said, Strasburg and JZimm are all but set. Here's some commentary on the others:
  • Scott Olsen has struggled to stay healthy, but is an overpowering lefty when he's able to do so.
  • Ross Detwiler returned from hip surgery looking as strong as ever. Another lefty that will make a lasting impression at some point. He was the Nats 1st pick (6th overall) in the 2007 amateur draft.
  • Chien Ming Wang may never throw a pitch for the Nats, ever. If he does, he's a guy with two 19 win seasons and a Cy Young type pitcher when healthy. The problem is getting him there.
  • Jason Marquis came off of an All-Star season in Colorado, but went down with loose bodies in his pitching elbow. If healthy, he's got one of the best sinkers in the game and is a great veteran asset to any rotation.
  • Yuniesky Maya recently signed as another potential pitcher of the near future, because he's already 28 years old. If the Nats are going to get anything out of him, it's going to have to be soon. He's already at his "prime" age. It's hard to know until the Nats really get their hands on him, but looks to be the real deal.
  • Livan Hernandez... I mean, come on. Livo is one of the stories of the year for the Nats. No one wanted him, but the Nats needed a workhorse, so they went out and got him again. Although he's low on the list of likely candidates, you have to imagine he's on the short list just as a sign of respect.
It's easy to see that the Nationals will have absurd decisions to make before April 2011. As we enter the off-season in the fall, we'll make some predictions about what the rotation will look like, but until then, it's impossible to know. One thing that we do know: it looks exciting.


  1. You made no mention of J Lannan, who has been the Opening Day starter for the Nats 2 years in a row ..

    Don't kick yourself too hard; I believe that Mark Zuckerman made the same omission when he did a similar recap a week or so ago

  2. What's the status of low-A guys like Jack McGeary and Josh Smoker? I know they've been touted as big prospects in the past, but I haven't heard a thing about either of them recently.

  3. McGeary and Smoker are struggling mightly at Hagerstown and like Colten Willems before them look like they are going to be busts. Brad Peacock, Bradley Meyers and Tom Millone look like more like prospects at this point and Daniel Rosenbaum was just promoted to Potomac and has had a great year.

  4. Anon - it was a conscious decision to omit Lannan. Unfortunately, barring some injuries, he has a single digit percentage chance of making the starting rotation next season. His start Sunday created no real light at the tunnel. At this point including Lannan wouldn't be unlike including Shairon Martis (Ben Goessling had a great post about this recently).

    Nick - Bdrube answers your question pretty concisely. I will do some digging around about them for a future post about the distant future, but this was about guys who have a shot to make the 2011 rotation.

    As always, thanks for the additional analysis bdrube.