One of the Washington Nationals‘ biggest problems last year was consistency in the starting rotation. The back of the rotation was plagued by injury and ineffectiveness.
Ross Detwiler, despite being limited to 13 starts with oblique and back issues in 2013, is expected to be in the starting rotation next year. Before landing on the disabled list for the first time on May 16, Detwiler had a 2.76 ERA through 45 innings, giving Washington confidence that if healthy he will repeat his breakout 2012 in 2014.
Detwiler will join Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann to form one of the National League’s more formidable young rotations.
That leaves the fifth spot in open competition. General Manager Mike Rizzo added veteran free agents Edwin Jackson and Dan Haren in 2012 and 2013 but indicated he is comfortable entering 2014 with their internal options, notably Taylor Jordan and Tanner Roark, who both made important starts late in the season for Washington.
Today we will examine the former.
Jordan, 24, the Nationals’ ninth-round draft pick in 2009, made his debut for the Nationals on June 29, making nine starts before being shutdown for the season with a back-strain. Jordan opened the season at Single A Potomac before being promoted to Double A Harrisburg. While there he was selected to the MLB Future Stars game, although he was promoted to Washington before the event. Jordan was a combined 9-1 at both levels, including a 7-0 record with a 0.83 ERA in eight starts for Harrisburg.
Jordan was serviceable in nine starts for Washington before being shut down for the season with a back strain on Aug. 17. In 51.2 innings, he had an 3.66 ERA, his fastball touched 96 mph, and he demonstrated an ability to fool major league hitters, keeping them off balance with his odd but deliberate delivery.
Operating under an innings limit after Tommy John surgery late in 2011, Jordan showed promise despite never facing a batter above double-A before his promotion. He was able to control his hard fastball and sinker, only surrendering 11 walks and three home runs. He did finish his first major league season with a batting average against of .291, but his 4.3 percent walk rate in the minor leagues indicates he should be able to minimize the damage.
Pitching at three different levels in his first professional season, Jordan can expect to only get better. In his limited showing at the major league level he demonstrated the ability to produce outs at the major league level. Entering his age-25 season without a complete season on his resume will create concern for the Nationals, but the mess that was the back of the rotation last year might have Rizzo believing in continuity above all else moving forward.
It would be hard to fault Washington if they chose to go with the hard-throwing Jordan.
Evan Szymkowicz is a Washington Nationals writer for rantsports.com Follow him on twitter @evanszy19