Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
We have come to the third and final phase of this series on choosing who should get the first shot to be the fifth starter in the Nationals rotation. I have already wrote about Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan in the previous two days. Now it is time for Tanner Roark to go under the microscope.
Roark had a fabulous fourteen games with the big league club last season. He started five games winning three with one loss. In the loss he faced the National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals and gave up four runs in five innings of work. In all his other starts he went at least six innings and gave his team a chance to win. That is all you can ask for. Tyler Clippard, Drew Storen and Rafael Soriano can take care of the rest.
Even when he wasn’t getting the ball in the first inning Roark was solid. The most runs he gave up in a relief appearance was two, but the offense bailed him out, keeping them in the game and eventually winning. In nine relief appearances in all he gave up a total of three runs. A very impressive run for a kid seeing his first big league action.
He had success because of one thing. He induced ground balls 50% of the time. He got lucky at times with BABIP, but everyone gets lucky every once in a while. He won’t put up a .243 BABIP next season with more starts but if it can stay consistent with the amount of innings then you can’t complain.
The one issue I can see hurting him is the amount of hard line drives he gave up. 25% of the time a ball was hit on a line, hard. He has to be able to keep the ball low in the zone and not make as many mistakes. He also did a great job of leaving runners on base, as he left nearly 80% of runners on the base paths.
He is young at only 26 years of age, but in my eyes he deserves to have this job going into Spring Training. If he underperforms and someone beats him out, then congrats to them, they earned it. He has earned the right to be the front runner going into the spring. He has proved himself at the major league level and he isn’t coming off an injury.
The one thing he will have to do is adjust. Hitters are going to adjust and he will have to do the same. If he refuses to do so, the results will change drastically. But in my eyes, Tanner Roark is the guy to fill the fifth spot, in the best rotation in all of baseball.