Previewing the Washington Nationals Rotation Heading into 2016


The Washington Nationals ranked seventh in all of baseball in starter ERA last season. How is their rotation shaping up heading into 2016?

As the calendar year comes to an end, I will be taking a look at where each of the components of the 25-man roster stand entering 2016. Next up: the rotation, which fell short of preseason expectation as a whole but it did remain a strength for this Washington ball club in 2015. This season, they will have a new pitching coach in former Rangers’ coach, Mike Maddux. 

No. 1 Starter

Max Scherzer (31, bats right/throws right) owed $15 million in 2016

2015 Stats: Compiled a 14-12 record with a 2.79 ERA (2.77 FIP), 0.918 WHIP, 276 strikeouts, 34 walks, 27 home runs, and 4 complete games across 33 appearances (33 starts) in 228.2 innings pitched.

The only starter on the team to reach the ninth inning, Max Scherzer dazzled in his first season as a Washington National. While he struggled with the long ball after the All-Star break (17 home runs given up in his final 15 starts) , Scherzer was clearly among the top arms in the league in 2o15. As he prepares for his second year donning the Curly W, the sky’s the limit for the former Cy Young winner in 2013.

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No. 2 Starter

Stephen Strasburg (27, R/R) projected to earn $10.5 million in arbitration**

2015 Stats: Compiled an 11-7 record with a 3.46 ERA (2.81 FIP), 1.107 WHIP, 155 strikeouts, 27 walks, 14 home runs, and 0 complete games across 23 appearances (23 starts) in 127.1 innings pitched.

Strasburg may not have lived up to the hype he received when the Nats drafted him No. 1 overall in 2009, but when healthy, he’s been a force on the mound. Could 2016 be the year he finally reaches superstar status in a contract year? Maybe not, but there is no doubt that the Scherzer-Strasburg combo at the top of the rotation could rival that of any in the league if Strasburg can stay healthy.

More from Max Scherzer

No. 3 Starter

Gio Gonzalez (30, R/L) owed $12 million

2015 Stats: Compiled an 11-8 record with a 3.79 ERA (3.05 FIP), 1.423 WHIP, 169 strikeouts, 69 walks, 8 home runs, and 0 complete games across 31 appearances (31 starts) in 175.2 innings pitched.

The sole left-hander of this repertoire of starters will be embarking on his fifth campaign with the Nats in 2016, hoping to return to his 2012 form after an up-and-down season. Gonzalez struggled with his command in 2015, and will look to reach the 190+ strikeout plateau after following short the past two seasons. His 69 walks were the seventh highest in the National League this past season. 

No. 4 Starter

Joe Ross (23, R/R) owed approximately $500,000

2015 Stats: Compiled a 5-5 record with a 3.64 ERA (3.42 FIP), 1.109 WHIP, 69 strikeouts, 29 walks, 7 home runs, and 0 complete games across 16 appearances (13 starts) in 76.2 innings pitched.

23-year old Joe Ross will be entering his sophomore season all but guaranteed a spot in the rotation following an impressive rookie season. The Nats like what they saw out of their young prospect after trading for alongside Trea Turner prior to the 2015 season. Between showing flashes of brilliance and the ability to remain calm and collected on the mound, 2016 will be an exciting year for Ross.

Next: Nats Sign Stephen Drew To One-Year Deal

No. 5 Starter

Tanner Roark (29, R/R) owed approximately $500,000

2015 Stats: Compiled a 4-7 record with a 4.38 ERA (4.70 FIP), 1.306 WHIP, 70 strikeouts, 26 walks, 17 home runs, and 0 complete games across 40 appearances (12 starts) in 111.0 innings pitched.

Only a year removed from a season in which he made 31 starts and posted a 2.85 ERA, Tanner Roark will be returning to the rotation after a disappointing year in the bullpen. While it remains to be seen if President of Baseball Operations Mike Rizzo makes a move through free agency to replace him, Roark is penciled in as the number five starter as of right now, but there’s plenty of offseason left. 

**Projections according to MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes