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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.

By Adam Kilgore  |  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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Next: Elijah Dukes released (updated)


Lot of "ifs" there, as you noted, but it is an intriguing rotation daydream. That would be worth watching in 2011, if the Lerners would pony up for some middle infield support for all those ground ball inducing pitchers. (You put that $3B notation in there to make me say that, didn't you?)

Nice gamer story in the prior post. I do wonder why the hard copy edition (which I read every morning) didn't note our amazing 2 win day...

Posted by: NatsFly | March 17, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse

And yesterday the Nats broke an 11 game spring losing streak by winning two. But if you read the print sports page in today's WaPo, you wouldn't know that. Not even a score was mentioned. Everyone knows these games don't count, but still. That didn't keep the Post from mentioning and even harping on the losses in print, did it?

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 17, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

Interesting comment by Sheinin in that Soriano story. "His 2006 season still stands as the single best in franchise history." I guess Sheinin wasn't watching Ryan Zimmerman in 2009?

Posted by: TBCTBC | March 17, 2010 9:50 AM | Report abuse

I don't want to be mean, but today's release of Logan Kensing was long overdue. The man had Daniel Cabrera type quality, and the Nats hopefully are beyond such severe reclamation projects. It's one thing to hope for a return to form by an inured pitcher, but another to take on a pitcher with a fastball in the hope that his 5th opportunity to start finding the plate will be the magic one.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 17, 2010 10:08 AM | Report abuse


The Washington Nationals today unconditionally released outfielder Elijah Dukes. Nationals Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Rizzo made the announcement.

The Nationals currently have 44 players in their big league camp.

— 30 —

Posted by: JohnJr1 | March 17, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

That Nats catagorize Marquis as their big free agent signee this winter and you don't expect him to be in the rotation at the end of this year? I realize that may be because of a trade, but either way that is disapointing. That said, can't say I disagree. I don't expect much from him either. I'm still angry that Chapman is not part of this organization. Add him to the 2011 mix and then you have a scary good rotation. The Lerners are cheap.

Posted by: Schildball | March 17, 2010 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I'm surprised at the Dukes news. I feel bad for him what with his dad's recent passing and all.

Re. one of the links, the 30/30 program is slated to air again today at 11 AM and 4 PM. Not to spoil the surprise but Magrane had the funniest comment, IMO (in the Dunn segment).

Will be interesting to see how things shake out with the rotation.

fwiw, MASN currently has an "ask the GM" post up. BG will be chatting with him and is giving readers the opportunity to submit questions.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have released Elijah Dukes. This ought to be interesting.


Posted by: kevincostello | March 17, 2010 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Ian Desmond starting RF???

Posted by: FloresFan | March 17, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the fascination with Mock. Stammen was reliable and effective last year, pitched very well yesterday and with more velocity than Mock or Olsen.

Olsen belongs in Harrisburg on a rehab assignment.

Based upon past performance, I'd go with:


Posted by: arlingtontwb | March 17, 2010 11:11 AM | Report abuse

It would make more sense if the rotation was:
1. John Lannan
2. Jason Marquis
3. Scott Olsen
4. Garrett Mock
5. Craig Stammen

That way when Wang and Jesus are ready you slide both to the pen for long relief support.

Posted by: hansenjo | March 17, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

This would surely disappoint Senator (Majorty Whip) Harry Reid, Dem-Nevada as he was looking so forward to visiting Nat.'s Park and watching his home state Pitcher, JD Martin in the Nationals rotation again, in 2010...

Posted by: dawgball | March 17, 2010 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I was also wondering why there was no gamer in the paper this morning. And who cares about Soriano still? How long has he been gone? Did we ever love him? I didn't...

Posted by: Elyse315 | March 17, 2010 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Adam - so you think Wang is definitely going to come back?

I thought he was a bigger question mark than that. If he does come back the Nats made a great move.

but he could be another Mark Mulder too.

Posted by: Pensfans | March 17, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I actually like those Sheinin pieces that follow up on ex-Nats.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 17, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse


I disagree with the possible rotation. Stammen is essentially a righty version of Lannan. Stammen's 2009 WHIP and FIP were 1.29 and 4.68, respectively, which are slightly better than pre-injury Olsen and Lannan. And, according to Bill James on, JD Martin is expected to have numbers better than Stammen. If I were the manager, my opening day rotation would include the following pitchers:

J.D. Martin


Posted by: unclebuck1 | March 17, 2010 1:18 PM | Report abuse

There will be interesting changes ahead:

First Strasburg is called up, perhaps as early as mid-May.

Then trades are possible...One of the most interesting might involve a deal with ex-manager Manny Acta's Indians. This could happen if, for example, Garrett Mock starts off badly here, while Fausto Carmona has another bad start in Cleveland. In such a case, my hunch is that Manny Acta would try to ship Carmona to Washington for Mock. Don't know how such a trade would affect the Nats' and Indians' fortunes.

Further trades might be likely after All Star break if the Nats are solidly mired in last place in the NL East once again. The early statistics aren't too promising.

Dropping Elijah Dukes isn't a very good sign on the offensive side of the equation.
In any case, the starting rotation could look a lot different in September. What would be nice is to see the Nats out of fifth place, but it's already starting to look bad.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | March 17, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

If the Nats are indeed going off past performance, I don't see why JD Martin wouldn't get a spot. He was okay last year (4.44 ERA), but that was vastly superior to Mock (5.62 ERA) and Stammen (5.11).

Plus he's had a solid Spring thus far. And Mock and Stammen are a couple years younger than Martin--could use AAA more.

Posted by: CJArlington | March 17, 2010 3:54 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that JD Martin should have a slot until someone proves to be better. In his final 11 games last season he was 5-2 with a 4.1 ERA and averaged 5-1/3 innings. Marquis and Lannon have put up better numbers, and I suppose Hernandez, but no one else has who is healthy.

Posted by: ZUGAY1 | March 17, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse

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