Washington Nationals Pitchers for 2014 Fantasy Baseball
Welcome to what is quite possibly the best pitching rotation in the major leagues. Everyone knows Stephen Strasburg’s potential. Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman demonstrated their dominance over opposing bats last year. And the team landed Doug Fister, a #2 starter in most rotations, as the #4 man in a fearsome mound attack. Russ Detwiler appears to have the nod for the #5 spot, but he’s being challenged this spring by Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan. The two men out in this battle will occupy bullpen spots until injuries push them to starting duty. Both Roark and Jordan proved last season they are capable of filling in admirably in a pinch. The bullpen doesn’t have a lockdown closer, but the arms in this arsenal are very capable of handling the end game. Add this pitching staff to a very good offensive threat and you have the ingredients for a magical season in D.C.
If any pitcher has the stuff to unseat Clayton Kershaw as the most dominant force from the mound, Strasburg is the guy. He’s battled injuries and an overly cautious Nats ownership thus far in his young career. This season, the innings count noose has been cut and, barring injury, we’ll likely get 200-plus frames of Strasburg’s magical stuff. Even though it seems he’s been around for a decade, he’s only 25 and capable of blowing up the counting fantasy stats. Don’t overlook this stud. This year could well be the last he isn’t drafted as one of the top two pitchers off the board.
On nearly any other staff, Gonzalez is the ace. After a disastrous start to 2013, he righted the ship and pitched great the rest of the way. Gonzalez still walks too many batters, but the strikeouts (more than one per inning) and win potential with the Nats supporting offense make him a highly coveted commodity on fantasy teams. Grab him expecting 16-18 wins, 200 strikeouts and 20-plus quality starts.
Some experts suggest Zimmerman reached his ceiling in his 19 win 2013 season. He doesn’t fan batters at the rate of other elite pitchers, therefore his luck on BABIP has boosted his numbers. Fine. Let the experts leave him undrafted in the early rounds. That gives you a better chance to grab a bargain. Zimmerman’s excellent control and ability to avoid issuing free passes is the primary reason for his success. I certainly won’t compare him to Greg Maddux, but this is the exact formula The Professor used to stymie hitters. So far this spring, Zimmerman is picking up where he left off last season. Pencil him in for 16-18 wins, enjoy the tiny ERA and WHIP and laugh at the experts as you climb the win column.
The best #4 starter in MLB, Fister is presently dealing with elbow discomfort. It’s worth keeping tabs on, but as of this writing it does not appear overly distressing. Adding a control freak like Fister to this rotation almost seems unfair to the rest of the National League. Like Zimmermann, he doesn’t miss a huge number of bats, but his accuracy in the zone forces batters to hit his pitch. Look for Fister to maintain his momentum from last season with the Tigers. He’ll likely be the only #4 starter in the majors with more than 15 wins.
A back injury blew up Detwiler’s 2013 season after the 6’5” lefty jumped out to a good start. He has the potential to rack up strikeouts if he uses more off-speed and breaking pitches to complement his mid-nineties heat. The 28-year-old has been roughed up this spring, leaving a crack in the door for youngsters Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan to slip into the conversation. For now, expect Detwiler to nail down the #5 spot in the rotation. But keep an eye on Roark and Jordan if Detwiler bombs in the early weeks of the regular season.
Rafael Soriano, Closer
Soriano saved 43 games in 49 chances in 2013, but he made some of those saves interesting. The 34-year-old doesn’t walk many batters, but he also doesn’t blow many away anymore. There is concern in Washington about Soriano’s loss of velocity. In fantasy, Soriano is an interesting commodity. He’s saved more than 40 games the past two seasons, but his overall stats appear to suggest he will eventually blow up. If you draft him, it might be a good idea to handcuff him with the next guy on this list.
Tyler Clippard, Setup Man
If your league counts holds, you want Clippard on your roster. In 2013, he led the national league in the category with 33. He also fanned more than a batter per inning while turning in a miniscule 0.86 WHIP and 2.41 ERA. Clippard saved 32 games for the Nats in 2012, so he has the mentality to serve as closer should Soriano stumble.
Drew Storen, Middle Relief
Storen is worth mentioning just to make sure you don’t miss an opportunity if it arises. Storen saved 43 games for the Nats in 2011, but elbow surgery shelved his 2012 season until late July. Then, in the deciding game of the 2012 NLDS, with the Nats leading the Cardinals 7-5 in the ninth, Storen became a goat by allowing the Cards to surge ahead for the win. Soriano was signed last year and, coupled with Clippard’s surge, Storen became a forgotten man in Washington. He’s only 26 and still has elite talent, so keep his name in the back of your mind if juggling starts occurring in the back of the Nats pen….or if he is traded.