Handicapping Nats’ Starting Rotation For Next Year


With Davey Johnson likely being back as manager next year, his first task will be making decisions on who will be in the starting rotation next season.

His first two choices should be easy. Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann will be in the starting rotation.

It comes down to the rest of the spots. There are many to choose from, and that’s why those guys received lot of starts in September, so that Johnson can have a good idea on who he can evaluate heading to spring training.

Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, Tom Milone and Brad Peacock received many starts this month, and they performed well. They will be given a chance to earn their spot in the rotation in next year’s spring training.

Right now, Wang has the edge to be the third starter. He has pitched well overall after recovering from a surgery. It took him two years to bounce back. He has done well in being effective. He had his sinker working, which guys were able to hit groundouts often.  He knows what he is doing out on the mound.

That type of veteran experience helps the Nationals. It’s always a good thing to have a veteran that knows how to win out of the mound, especially a guy who has guile to get it done.

As long as he is healthy, he will be in the rotation. It’s hard to believe he will struggle.

Now, it comes down to the young starters. Detwiler has had mixed results, but he was good enough to get another look by Johnson in the spring.

There’s no question he can throw strikes to get outs and go through perfect innings. His problem is that he is more of a four to five inning pitcher at best. He does not have the stamina or the stuff to go deep in games. In other words, he is a spot starter. He can fill in when he has to.

He is probably better off being a middle reliever, and that’s likely where he will end up.

Johnson seems to like him, which he likes his competitive fire. That type of trait will always endear a starter to the manager. Still, it comes down to performance. If Detwiler can show that he has enough to go seven or eight innings, he will make the rotation.

Peacock has had his ups and down along with Milone. It was to be expected being that they were callups in September. No one knows what either of them can do. What they do in the spring will determine a long way.

It’s likely one of them will be in the minors to get more seasoning. It’s hard to believe both of them will be in the rotation together to fill out the fourth and fifth spot. This team would prefer to have only one rookie out there.

Peacock has been known to have strong command. He has been hyped by the organization as an ace. The Nationals like to see him form a trio, which features three aces. They got two in Strasburg and Zimmermann. If they can get Peacock to pitch like those two, they could be contending for championships, which require three aces to win games.

Peacock showed some potential when he was out there, but he didn’t go deep in games. He left in middle of the game, which was to be expected. It’s hard to evalulate.

Same goes to Tom Milone. He did alright out there when he was pitching.

It will be interesting what those two do. The Nationals hope both of them can do well in spring and start next year. It’s better for them to go through growing pains while the team is still building. Next year is not going to be the year for them to compete for the playoffs, so it’s best they use this opportunity to learn now.

The team wants to make the playoffs by 2013, so it’s important by then those two develop into good starters the way Jordan Zimmermann has done in the last few years.

John Lannan could be the odd man out. His potential may have been tapped. It turns out he is a decent starter at best. He is not an innings eater. He does not fare well against great hitting teams. He is good enough to win games and lose games like Livan Hernandez.

With the money he is making and a mediocre performance, it might be enough for the Nationals to cut bait rather than pay his salary. Prior to last night’s start, he didn’t finish the season strong, so that should get the Nationals to think about.

Livan Hernandez is not coming back. He admitted it by saying that he is willing to be a middle reliever for the Nationals.

The evaluations in the fall were good, but it doesn’t provide any evidence if those guys can pitch. Even spring training may not be enough. This is going to be a work in progress.

With that said, Spring training will be interesting for sure this year with many guys trying out for the fourth and the fifth roles in the rotation.