Name: Taylor Jordan
Position: Starting Pitcher
2013 Expectations: At the major league level, it’s safe to say there were no expectations for Taylor Jordan in 2013. Fully recovered from Tommy John surgery, the former 9th-round pick in 2009 was scheduled to start the season at High-A Potomac with an eye to climbing up the Washington Nationals minor league ladder at some point over the course of the season. At 24, Jordan was older than a lot of his teammates and opponents in the Carolina League, but hadn’t thrown a full season since 2010. A post-TJ innings limit would likely coincide nicely with the end of the minor league season, hopefully setting Jordan, the 17th-ranked prospect in the system at the beginning of the season, up for a chance to impress in big league camp in 2014.
2013 Results: Needless to say, Jordan came out of the blocks at full sprint, demonstrating to everyone in the Nats organization that his surgically repaired elbow was fine. Through his first six starts with the P-Nats, Jordan sported a 1.24 ERA to go along with a 2-1 record and a .228 opponents batting average. After an early-May call-up to AA Harrisburg, Jordan’s season really took off. The jump in class didn’t faze Jordan, who posted a 7-0 record with a 0.83 ERA in nine appearances, including back-to-back shutouts in June. As July approached, the big club in Washington had an opening for a spot start, as Dan Haren was suffering through a miserable beginning to his Washington tenure and was in need of a DL stint to clear his head. Against the odds, Jordan got the call, making his big league debut at Citi Field on June 29. Despite suffering a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Dillon Gee and the Mets, Jordan threw well, allowing just an unearned run through 4.2 innings. The rookie had done enough to stay in the rotation for the time being, and continued to churn out competent starts — none good enough to pick up a win, however, for his first month in the majors.
That elusive first W finally came on July 29 against the Mets, which featured a perfect storm of both Jordan’s best outing as a big leaguer and a barrage of run support from his Nationals teammates. When the dust had settled after a 14-run, 18-hit attack by Washington, and six one-run innings by Jordan, the Nats had a 14-1 victory and the rookie was off the schneid. It would prove to be his only win of the season, despite another sterling outing, his last of the season, in August in Atlanta. Jordan again threw six innings, allowing two unearned runs, but the Nationals couldn’t get anything going against Braves pitcher Alex Wood. Despite tying the game late, the Nats lost on a walk-off home run by Justin Upton.
With his innings limit looming, a decision would have to be made soon as to when Jordan’s season would end. After that Atlanta game, the decision was made for him, as a lower back strain sent him to the disabled list. On the whole, it was an excellent breakthrough season for Jordan, one that ended with him named the Nationals Minor League Pitcher of the Year.
2014 Outlook: Unbridled by any innings constraints now, Jordan absolutely did enough in his rookie season to be considered as a candidate to make the Washington rotation in 2014. With the big three of Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann locked up, and Ross Detwiler assumed to be healthy after a injury-plagued 2013, it would appear that there are at least three candidates for the fifth starter’s spot — Jordan, Tanner Roark and Ross Ohlendorf. Of course, if Mike Rizzo decides to make a splash by acquiring a starting pitcher either through a trade or free agency, those plans could change. Either way, Jordan has proved he can be at worst a serviceable spot starter, with the potential to step in and make an impact for the major league team.