When: 1:35 EST
The Starters: Jurrjens (3-3, 6.20) vs. Detwiler (4-3, 3.15)
The Line: Nat -140, Braves +120, O/U 8.5 Runs, Braves -1.5
Profile: John Lannan is a 27 year old lefty entering his 6th pro season in 2012, starting at least 25 games in each of the past four. Lanny has been a reliable starter for the Nats since breaking into the big leagues in 07′ and at times has even been the best pitcher on the staff. This season is a pivotal one for Lannan because the Nats finally have a good enough group of pitchers to really force him to compete for a spot in the rotation. At this point in his career he has a bad record of 38-51, but that is mostly due to Nats being a bad team during his time in the pros. His career era is respectable at 4.00 and hes been an innings eater on a team that’s been thin in starting pitching prior to this year. The challenge for Lanny this year will be that hes already projected out of the top five of the rotation and the player he’s in competition with (Ross Detwiler) for the 6th/spot starter role has more upside than him. With 128 starts and four remarkably consistent seasons (eras of 3.91, 3.88, 4.65 and 3.70), he is what he is at this point, which is a reliable lefty the Nats can count on. That sounds good enough to secure the job, but the Nat’s focus this season seems to be finding out what they really have in their prospects. For that reason I think if Lannan and Detwiler are producing at a similar level, Ross will get starts before John. With that said I still expect Lanny to start the year as the number six and pick up the starts that Chien-Ming Wang will miss with his strained hamstring.
Profile: Ross Detwiler has spent parts of the four seasons in the pros but has yet to break into the big leagues full time. The 26 year old lefty has had control issues that have kept him from being an effective pitcher at the major league level. His record at this point is a horrendous 6-14 but that is misleading because his 4.07 era isn’t that bad at all. The 2011 season was a big step forward for Ross, as his control improved dramatically, walking only 20 batters in 66 innings compared to 14 BB’s in just 29 innings in 2010. He also improved his era to a very solid 3.00, dropped his Opp BA 30 points to .258, and posted a K/BB ratio over two for the first time in his career. Detwiler has the stuff to break into the top five of about 25 rotations and the top 3 of about 10 (like the O’s for example), but unfortunately for Ross the National’s rotation arn’t one of those. He’ll enter the year in competition with John Lannan, if neither is traded by the end of spring training which is a big if, for 6th on the starter depth chart. The 6th starter role for the Nats is more important than that same role on most other teams due to the fact that three of the five guys (Strasburg, Zimmermann, Wang) in the rotation have missed extensive time with injuries within the past two seasons. Whoever wins the 6th man will probably even start the year in the rotation due to Chien-Ming Wang suffering a hamstring strain in Thursday’s spring training game. We’ll have a lot better idea of exactly what Detwiler’s role will be after spring training, but whatever it is I see him getting over 100 innings for the first time in his career and taking a big step towards winning a full time role as a starter in the big leagues.
With Spring training now in full swing and the National’s season opener just a month away, it’s time to get familiar with the 25 guys we’ll be seeing a the most of this year. The Nats made a splash this off season by trading 2 top prospects (and 2 bums) for a top 10 lefty in Gio Gonzalez, but other than adding him to the rotation they didn’t tweak much else. My projected Opening Day roster has only five players that didn’t wear the red, white, and blue last year (Harper, Gonzalez, Jackson, Lidge and Derosa). However just because there wasen’t much change doesn’t mean there isn’t much reason for excitement. By my count, the Opening Day 25 contains 10 players with three full seasons of experience or less, almost all of which have shown promise at the big league level (Desmond, Espinosa, Ramos, Strasburg, Zimmermann, Detwiler, and Storen). And let’s not forget baseball’s version of Lebron James, Bryce Harper, who I have playing right field from day 1 in 2012.
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