We’ve started our annual Depth Chart Discussions, re-branded as Playing Time Battles for 2016. You can catch up on every team we’ve covered in the Playing Time Battles Summary post or following along using the Depth Chart Discussions tag.
At this point, I think you know what you’re getting yourselves into. We’re here to talk position battles. Max Scherzer‘s battle for second best fantasy pitcher is irrelevant to us.
In addition to Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are locked into starting roles. They aren’t going anywhere. Well, Strasburg and Gonzalez could be traded, but it seems a little late for the club to go that route.
Fourth on the depth chart is Doug Fister impersonator Tanner Roark. Fister, to be clear, is no longer a National (he is, in fact, a free agent). As for Roark, he’s a contact-oriented righty with plus command. In 363 career innings, he has a 3.12 ERA, 3.84 xFIP, 6.14 K/9, and 1.88 BB/9. Last season was his worst – a 4.38 ERA, 5.68 K/9, and 2.11 BB/9. He bounced between the rotation and bullpen which might explain the poor results.
Short of a terrible spring, Roark will be in the rotation. The current front runner to join him is Joe Ross. Tyson Ross‘ younger brother performed just like his sibling. He has a below average quality sinker and a plus slider. Personally, I’m very wary of Ross – I see a swing starter or setup reliever. Mike Podhorzer recently outlined most of my concerns.
Despite my worry, Ross was quite good in his major league debut. So long as he continues to produce, he’ll be a valuable member of the Nationals. In 13 starts and three relief appearances, Ross had a 3.64 ERA, 3.62 xFIP, 8.10 K/9, and 2.47 BB/9. Once he got ahead in the count, he buried hitters under an avalanche of sliders.
In the event of injuries or poor performance, the team has plenty of depth (and a pending minor league contract offer to Bronson Arroyo). Fly ball pitcher Yusmeiro Petit is the swing man. The purveyor of the Invisiball could conceivably push Roark into the bullpen under the right conditions. Because he’s 30 and signed to a one-year contract, the Nationals will undoubtedly give preference to their long term assets.
While he’s not first in line on the call sheet, Lucas Giolito is on the cusp of the majors. The Nationals top prospect looks to be an ace in the making. He’s made just eight starts in the upper minors (3.80 ERA, 8.56 K/9, 3.23 BB/9 at Double-A). He’ll need to prove himself again at Double- and Triple-A before he shoves the door wide open. Since the Nationals are contending, we’ll probably see Giolito at some point this season.
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