The Nationals’ 2011 Rotation

The Nationals currently rank 13th in the NL with a 4.41 rotation ERA.  They've given starts to a dozen different pitchers, but let's try to figure out next year's top rotation candidates.

We know 22-year-old phenom Stephen Strasburg will head up the rotation next year, and baseball fans everywhere have to hope his shoulder inflammation is a non-issue.  Though he's only made four starts this year due to minor elbow surgery, veteran Jason Marquis also probably has a spot locked up given his $7.5MM salary.

24-year-old righty Jordan Zimmermann is being handled carefully as he returns from Tommy John surgery; he has dominant numbers across eight minor league rehab starts this year and should be back next month.  He's in.

Yunesky Maya is an intriguing wild card.  The 28-year-old Cuban recently signed a four-year, $8MM deal, and last month GM Mike Rizzo suggested to's Bill Ladson Maya is not far from a big league rotation.

Opening Day starter John Lannan has dealt with an elbow issue and was optioned to Double A in June.  He stayed there for about a month.  Lannan should be arbitration-eligible after the season and could earn a couple million bucks if tendered a contract.

Livan Hernandez, Scott Olsen, and Chien-Ming Wang are possibilities for 2011.  Hernandez made it known he wants to re-sign.  Olsen could be non-tendered again as the Nationals try to maintain their flexibility in December.  He's done solid work but has dealt with a shoulder injury for much of the season.  Wang is another non-tender candidate – he still has no timetable in his recovery from shoulder surgery.  The Nationals have gotten nothing from this $2MM investment; will they pull the plug?

At least four more pitchers will be in the mix for 2011: Craig Stammen, Luis Atilano, J.D. Martin, and Ross Detwiler.  Atilano, Martin, and Detwiler have dealt with serious injuries this year.  Stammen was recently sent to the bullpen, though he's pitched much better than his 5.05 ERA.

Despite all these options, we know Rizzo wants more.  Back in June, he told the Washington Post's Adam Kilgore, "our biggest need is starting pitching."  Rizzo seemingly flirted with the idea of acquiring Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks or White Sox at the trade deadline.  It's reasonable to expect the Nationals to be active in the free agent and trade markets.  One more front-rotation pitcher complementing Strasburg and Zimmermann would go a long way.  On paper, the Nats could have one of the better rotations in the league entering next season.

21 Responses to The Nationals’ 2011 Rotation Leave a Reply

  1. i haven’t heard anything about Chien-Ming Wang’s shoulder. how’s it holding up?

    • souldrummer 5 years ago

      Not well. I don’t know if he’s even throwing in Viera. They keep saying stuff like “This injury isn’t typical for pitchers and more closely resembles Drew Brees shoulder injury before he signed with the Saints”. Lose a little velocity as an NFL quarterback and you can still survive. Lose a little velocity if you’re Chien Ming Wang and you become the new and less improved Chad Cordero.

      • WolandJR 5 years ago

        Wang is throwing brief bullpen sessions and sipping $2 million martinis.

  2. As a fan of an NL team, I would prefer it if his shoulder didn’t heal.

  3. Pseudonymus Bosch 5 years ago

    If Yunesky Maya can pitch anything like he did in Cuba (where he had better numbers than Aroldis Chapman, though of course he’s much older), that might have been the Nationals’ best signing of the year. He’s in the rookie league now, just getting warmed up after some time away from baseball going through the defection motions. He should be called up maybe for September.

    Craig Stammen was bumped to the bullpen despite a 2.60 ERA in his last five starts. These Nationals will have a deep list of options next year.

    • souldrummer 5 years ago

      Everybody overlooked Maya as a Nationals trade deadline move. I’m so glad that you and others are learning about this very important Nats signing now. Interesting that AA Harrisburg will soon have three Cuban exiles on the squad. Hassan Pena in the pen, El Duque (who pitched 2.1 scoreless in his debut last night) and probably Maya.

    • souldrummer 5 years ago

      Stammen is just an experiment. What an enigma! He got hit around in the bullpen last night to. I’ve watched him a bunch. Outsiders say his stuff warrants a fifth starter slot. Those who have watched him say the BABIP bad luck is because every ball he gives up seems to get real, real hard somewhere. Ain’t too many dribblers and pop ups. Increased velocity in, increased velocity back through the box, in the gaps, and through the infield holes to me so far this year.

      • Got hit around? Yet, yielded one run and had 4 K’s in two innings to a hot hitting Marlins team (just ask Strasburg). This Nats team needs defensive help in Left and on the right side of the infield. Without the defensive help pitch to contact guys look like failures.

        • souldrummer 5 years ago

          Strasburg got hit around last night in part because the Marlins are hot and in part because he didn’t have his best stuff last night. He couldn’t locate his curve and for whatever reason didn’t throw the diving change up that much. Stammen’s line looks fine. He got a double play grounder to minimize the damage during the inning where the Marlins scored. The Nats defense was fine behind Stammen as well.

          I as at last night’s game, and I didn’t remember coming away as being terribly impressed with Stammen. He got some Ks on free swinging Marlins late, he had a few hard hit balls in his first inning of work. Right now, he’s an experiment in the bullpen and he’s got a ways to go to show me that he’s in the mix for the rotation.
          Strasburg, Zimmermann and Maya seem to be the front half. Livo’s got to get some consideration for 5 based on his performance this year and his ability to help Maya’s transition. Marquis will be tough to dislodge as an expensive 4. Lannan’s got more history with the club. Detwiler’s the upside lefty. To me, he’s got to show that he can do it in the pen. If he wants to go after the Miguel Batista last man standing in the bullpen he can do that. If he shows he can consistently get guys out from the pen and has a strong start next year, maybe he gets back in the rotation mix, but at present he’s got a long way to go.

  4. EdinsonPickle 5 years ago

    Wow, pretty deep rotation. I completely forgot about Wang also. Those damn shoulder injuries are just so hard to recover from. I definitely think Olsen will be non-tendered though. I also have a feeling that they’re going to offer a new contract to Hernandez although they don’t need him.

    • souldrummer 5 years ago

      I expect absolutely zero from Wang next year. Does he even have a guaranteed contract? He’s given them zero this year, and his injury appears to be very complicated. If he wants to accept a minor league deal, fine. Go down to Syracuse and battle you way back like Slaten and Peralta have done and MacDougal did not. Otherwise, guys like Maya and Livo’s persistent ability to evade the peripherals gods suggest we have fewer rotation slots available this year and Wang should be on the outside looking in.

      • EdinsonPickle 5 years ago

        Wang doesn’t have a guaranteed contract for 2011, but he is arbitration eligible so he can be retained. I agree that with the ample amount of pitchers the Nats are bringing into next year if I were Rizzo I wouldn’t go anything past a minor league deal with Wang.

        • souldrummer 5 years ago

          There’s an article on Masnsports by Byron Kerr on the Wang update. To summarize, he’s going to throw 30 pitches all fastballs in a couple of days and then they’ll assess what kind of rehab assignment they will put him on if any.

  5. dc21892 5 years ago

    I wonder where the Nats will go in free agency. Maybe they’ll make a big pitch for Cliff Lee to throw atop the rotation with Strasburg even though they seem to have some good pieces for the rotation next year.

  6. souldrummer 5 years ago

    Detwiler’s on the DL right now, too. Same issue with the hip, although they claim it’s not that serious. “Better rotations in the league” is way optimistic to me. They have a potential ace with an innings limit, a number potential number two on an innings limit coming back from Tommy John, a potential 3 who has yet to throw a pitch in the big leagues, and a bunch of 4/5 quantity but not so much quality.

    Basically, the Nats probably need to go to war with this rotation, make minor upgrades around the diamond, and resign Dunn. That should be good enough to add 5-12 wins for the team, but should not shift them from saving their powder for the big time run in 2012 or 2013 when He Should Shut Up and Sign hopefully arrives in DC.

  7. On paper this could be a good team next year not as good as the braves or philles but better then the marlins nd mets

  8. On paper, Nationals always show depth in rotation and strong team but when it comes down to ball games, they just can’t get a break.

  9. DuhVo 5 years ago

    The Nationals are gonna be the team to looks out for in 2011. Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg? WOW

  10. Alex 5 years ago

    Looks like this one might need to be revised! Haha. Sucks for the Nats though, hopefully Stras can come back full steam in 2012.

  11. PieroB 5 years ago

    Yes, certainly the Nationals should be on the list of teams looking to add to their rotation. Otherwise a potential regression could recur. The current Stras-less team will have to struggle to get to 70 wins with a rotation led by 5th – 6th starter innings eaters Livo Hernandez and John Lannan with some help from innings eating veteran Jason Marquis. (Looks like the Nats need no more innings eaters MLBTR. Right?)

    Jordan Zimmermann, just back from TJ, has been very inconsistent. As has Ross Detwiler (returning from hip surgery) … there’s Garret Mock? The only guy who looks like an almost sure bet to be one of the top 3 starters is Yuneski Maya. They need at least one other guy and given Rizzo’s philosophy it will be someone younger than 32 and preferably 30.

    One would expect some trades to ensue over the winter in order to ameliorate this problem before Strasburg gets back from TJ.

  12. PieroB 5 years ago

    Uhmmm yeah … don’t expect to even see Strasburg or Harper until the end of 2011. Really 2012-2013?

    In 2011 with a Stras-less rotation they will certainly struggle again. The current Stras-less brigade will have to really struggle to get to 70 wins in 2010 because they are led by 5th-6th starter/innings eaters Livan Hernandez and John Lannan. With help from innings eater/starter Jason Marquis (back from elbow surgery). All three (sans a trade) should return next year.

    Jordan Zimmermann (returning from TJ surgery) and Ross Detwiler (returning from hip surgery) have yet to put together a string of consistent starts in the majors. In 2010 they have been mostly inconsistent. Paucity of quality starts. Garret Mock? Without any offseason moves you will surely see him again in ST 2011 post back surgery. Strasburg might be back at the end of 2011. Then again? The Nationals luck being what it is … former Nats ace Shawn Hill has had 2 TJ surgeries … in any case you really can’t rely on these guys to even be in the majors next year.

    The only pitching asset they have that seems an almost sure bet to land in one of the top 3 rotation spots is Yuneski Maya from Cuba. In spite of Jim Riggleman’s lack of confidence … needing to see more? Too bad he can’t feel that way about guys like Justin Maxwell, Willie Harris, and Cristian Guzman.

    The Nationals should DEFINITELY be on that list of teams who will change their rotation in 2011. They won’t even know who their opening day starter is until the end of ST 2011!
    Given that starting FA’s are all mostly over 34 you can’t see the Nationals going in that direction. The only possibility they might consider would be Cliff Lee. More likely they would work hard to put together a trade package to get a solid top-of-the-rotation starter from teams looking to trim payrolls.

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