Washington Nationals' starting rotation now and in the future
While Sheinin wrote about a big piece of the Nationals' past this morning, I had a thought about their future. By now, it seems like the Nationals have a pretty good idea of what they want their starting rotation to look like on Opening Day. This seems like the best guess:
1. John Lannan
2. Jason Marquis
3. Scott Olsen
4. Livan Hernandez
5. Garrett Mock
Maybe Craig Stammen will pitch well enough to either bump Mock or to convince the Nationals they don't need Livo's rubber arm. Maybe Olsen will have a setback in his recovery from surgery. But that right there is probably what the Nationals have got for now.
The rotation by the end of the season is most likely going to look far different from the rotation at the beginning of the season. That change could happen a number of different ways. You can count on John Lannan, barring injury, to be there all year. You can envision a scenario in which any other starter, even Marquis, could be swapped out.
First of all, Stephen Strasburg is going to take someone's spot after about a dozen minor league starts. Chien-Mien Wang will need a place, too. Ross Detwiler probably would have been the odds-on favorite to nab a spot, and once he returns he could make a push to leave behind the minor leagues.
J.D. Martin and Craig Stammen may build off of what have started as pretty solid springs and continue to pressure the Nationals to give them a shot at the rotation. Aaron Thompson is starting in Class AA Harrisburg, but he has first-round pedigree and, over a small sample size, has been one of the better pitchers in camp this spring; he struck out Albert Pujols swinging yesterday.
Aside from Wang and Strasburg, those pitchers will need to pitch well and have an opportunity created. The Nationals seem to like Mock quite a bit, and my guess is they don't want him looking over his shoulder all year. If he indeed earns a spot, he would probably have to blow up on a consistent basis to lose it. The Nationals are counting on Olsen for now, but any pitcher coming off surgery carries inherent risk. Hernandez, as much as he's meant to the franchise over the years, is a likely placeholder. You can see how all three may lose a spot.
Marquis is a traditionally fast starter. In his career, he has a 4.16 ERA before the all-star break and a 4.88 ERA after; last year, he made the All-Star Game with a 3.65 ERA. If mid-July rolls around and Marquis has complied with his history, he will become a tempting trade commodity for contenders in need of an arm: a 31-year-old starting pitcher with an ERA residing around 4.00 and a year and a half left on his deal.
That's not to say the Nationals are planning right now on trying to trade Marquis. But if enough of their young arms are showing they deserve to pitch in the majors -- I know that's optimistic, but, hey, it's St. Patrick's Day -- then they will have to create opportunity. There would be worse ways of doing that than picking up some prospects for Marquis. Don't forget, Jordan Zimmermann will have a spot in 2011 providing his rehab from Tommy John surgery continues to go well.
So by the end of this season, without indulging in any preposterous scenarios, the rotation could look something like this:
1. John Lannan
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Chien-Ming Wang
4. Ross Detwiler
5. Craig Stammen/J.D. Martin/Aaron Thompson
By 2011, it could look like this:
1. Stephen Strasburg
2. John Lannan
3. Jordan Zimmermann
4. Chien-Mien Wang
5. Ross Detwiler/Aaron Thompson/Craig Stammen/Garrett Mock/J.D. Martin
A lot has to happen and go right, but that 2011 rotation is enough to let you dream. Randy St. Claire, now the pitching coach with the Marlins, is not bitter, but he never had a staff like that. Ted Lerner is worth $3 billion now. The Nationals were featured on the MLB Network last night, and the video isn't up yet, but will be in that link.
March 17, 2010; 7:34 AM ET
Categories: Chien-Ming Wang , Garrett Mock , Jason Marquis , John Lannan , Livan Hernandez , Scott Olsen , Stephen Strasburg
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