The Nats Minor Weakness

There are still free agent pitchers looking to revive their careers. Jair
Jurrjens, Brandon Webb, and Livan Hernandez are all still on the market and
should be willing to sign minor league deals. Now you might be asking why I
bring this up when just the other day I wrote about how the Nats starting
rotation could be historically good. There is one big bugaboo when it comes to
starting pitching, and that is the best staffs are six or seven deep.  

The major league average for starters
used in 2012 was 10. The Reds had the fewest with six and the Padres led the
majors with fifteen, but no team made it through the season using just five
starters. Be it injury, under performance, or weather every major league
team is going to need a six, seventh, or eighth starter at some point during
the season. The 2012 Nationals were one of the teams on the low end having used
only eight starters, and Gorzelanny’s start almost shouldn’t count. The 2012
Nationals never had to deal with an injury to a member of their rotation, but that
doesn’t mean the same will hold true in 2013.  

As of right now the Nationals sixth
starter is Christian Garcia. The Nationals feel that he can help the team more
by filling in for doubleheaders or as the emergency back-up in case anyone goes
down for an extended period of time. Garcia has the repertoire of a starter and
proved at the end of 2012 that he can get major league batters out. How he does
as a starter has yet to be seen, but his potential gives him an edge over other
sixth starters. It is much better to hope a young player can reach their
potential than to pray a veteran can rebound.  

After Garcia the picture gets pretty
bleak. The man that would be the seventh starter is Yunesky Maya. In 15 career
games he has a 5.52 ERA, 4.1 K/9, and 1.551 WHIP, and has looked over matched
and out of place in every appearance. The Nationals could call up a reliever
and use Zach Duke in a spot start as he was the ERA leader among the Syracuse
Chiefs starters in 2012, but none of the other names from that team should
inspire much if any confidence. 

Diving deeper into AA and the story is
much the same. The one pitcher that could have been a spot starter for the
Nationals, Daniel Rosenbaum, was taken away by the Rockies in the Rule 5 draft.
There are numbers that catch the eye like the 2.84 ERA Ryan Perry put up in 13
starts, but as a reliever in the majors Perry has yet to prove he can get major
league batters out and even at AA with the impressive ERA he had trouble
striking batters out.  

The best hope for the Nationals and the emergency starter position is to
either sign a number of pitchers looking for a second chance to minor league
deals or to hope that Nathan Karns, Sammy Solis, and Robbie Ray can get on the
fast track in development and be ready to pitch in the majors when they
will inevitably be needed. How much they will be needed depends on
how the major league rotation is holding up, but even if there aren’t any
injuries at that level, the Nationals can’t stop weather. Not to mention, the Nats could ultimately decide that they
are better off with Christian Garcia in the bullpen over Henry Rodriguez, leaving the need for available starting pitching depth ever more apparent.

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10 comments

    1. Sanchez worries me, but on a MiLB deal? The more the merrier. Good call on the Webb/Rizzo connection, I wanted that to happen before he ended up with the Rangers in 2011, certainly couldn’t hurt now either.

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      1. Def. MiLB deals. No way I would give Sanchez a ML deal. I would love to get Vasquez, would even consider getting him an ML deal if I knew where to put him. Not sure if he can switch between starter/bullpen arm or he has to be stretched out.

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  1. Two things: (1) It’s still early in the offseason (2) Nobody but the Nats PR machine & the lapdog beat writers believes Garcia will be a starter. Considering that you can count the number of times he was allowed to pitch back-to-back outings this year on the hand of a bad shop teacher, the idea that a two-time TJ surgery survivor suddenly starting is preposterous.

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    1. It’s not all that early in the offseason, pitchers and catchers report in just over a month. You may be absolutely right, and to be fair there is a strong possibility the Organization caves in ST and moves him to the bullpen. Unfortunately we have to work with what we know. As of now what we know, and what the guys at Fangraphs and Baseball America seem to buy, is that Garcia is seen as a starter. You’re right that he wasn’t used very rigorously this year as far as consecutive days, but Davey obviously didn’t have an issue as most of his back to back appearances came at the MLB level. That also could have been a factor of him only pitching a total of 51 innings since 2009 and it has been the M.O. of this Organization to not jeopardize the future potential of a pitcher via overuse during/following their recovery. While the Nats organization was cautious with Garcia, they had no problem throwing him out there for 1.1IP or more in 14 of his 45 MiLB appearances, accounting for 31% of his MiLB appearances and 43% of his MiLB IP’s in 2012.

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    2. I don’t see a direct correlation between the team not using him on consecutive days and him not being physically capable of starting. Extra time off may imply a weakness that would show up under heavy usage, but that’s not a logical linear progression, it’s just as likely his supposed infirmary will be best dealt with in a starter’s standard rest routine.That said I think he’s the 7th stater on Opening Day, unless HRod somehow gets his shit together.

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