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MLB Washington Nationals

Should Ross Detwiler Be Front-Runner for Washington Nationals’ Rotation?

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

After acquiring Doug Fister a couple weeks ago and Jerry Blevins yesterday, combined with their acquisition of Nate McLouth the Washington Nationals have more or less checked off every major point on their list. They finally acquired a left handed reliever after a season of hoping minor league call ups would work out, and they acquired a solid bench bat after having one of the worst benches in baseball. Washington also finally shored up their rotation with the Fister acquisition for the next few seasons.

The Nationals could still add a backup catcher, though with the organizational catching depth it would not be surprising if Matt Williams and Mike Rizzo both decide to go with Sandy Leon or Jhonotan Solano as the backup to Wilson Ramos. One other spot Washington could address is their final rotation spot. There are some in-house candidates to choose from in Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan, two kids who came up in 2013 and posted solid numbers in the back of Washington’s rotation, as well as an incumbent who proved his mettle in 2012 and had a 2013 hampered by injuries in Ross Detwiler.

Detwiler had back surgery last season, which could be a contributing factor towards his 4.04 ERA and 92 hits allowed in 71.1 innings pitched. Detwiler’s health has brought into question whether or not he is suited to be a starter full time or if his true role is going to be in the bullpen for the majority of his career. With that in mind, should Detwiler be a front-runner for the rotation or should it be a given he ends up back in the bullpen?

Detwiler has a 1.11 ERA in 16 career games as a reliever and has a career 4.02 ERA in 69 games as a starter. With that in mind, it also should be addressed that Detwiler has never pitched a full season in either role. He started 2011 in the minors before being called up in July of 2011 and made 27 starts in 2012 but was shuttled in and out of the bullpen for other pitching projects Washington refused to give up on. What Detwiler is going to have to prove in 2014 is that he can be looked at as a back end of the rotation starter for years to come and not a question mark that a spot is reserved for given he earns it.

With the Nationals roster as currently constituted, Detwiler is definitely the best fifth starter option among the group they currently have to choose from. He is left handed which gives him an advantage being in a division with some great left handed hitters such as Freddie Freeman, Jason Heyward, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Curtis Granderson, who do not all have great numbers versus lefties. Detwiler has shown an ability to both start and relieve at a relatively high level and should be a front-runner for the rotation if Washington does not make another deal.