MLB Team News & Rumors: Washington

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Washington Nationals

Our expert from,Shawn Childs, helps you prepare for your big fantasy baseball draft.

Washington Nationals Team Projection

Get ready for your fantasy baseball draft by reading my player profiles of the 2014 Washington Nationals pitching staff.

1. SP Stephen Strasburg

Stephen Strasburg fantasy baseball

Strasburg supporters are running for cover under the Jose Fernandez tree after his less than elite season in 2013. His K rate (9.4) was off from his best 2 seasons in the majors and his walk rate (2.8) was a career high (despite only rising slightly). Stephen was the toughest to hit in his career (.207) due to some growth against lefties (.218), but he issued 37 of 56 walks to LH batters. Strasburg allowed 2 runs or less in 21 of his 30 starts. He had a 9 games stretch from May 11th to July 2nd where he allowed 2 runs or less in every game (1.29 ERA). His command was off over his first 18 starts (3 walks or more 7 times). Over his last 12 starts, he walked more than 3 batters only once. I guess the knife for fantasy owners happened on July 12th when Stephen allowed 9 base runners and 7 runs in 2 innings to the hapless Marlins. His final numbers are attractive and he is an elite arm, but fantasy players want him to be one of the best in the game and create an edge. His AFB (95.3) is still elite, but it has declined during every season in the majors. Strasburg has an elite curveball (batters hit .136) and a plus changeup (batters hit .130). The drop in his K rate may be the result of a rising GB rate (51.5% - career high). In October, he had surgery on his right elbow to remove bone chips. Stephen is expected to be ready for spring training. All in all, Strasburg had growth in 2013. He struggled to get wins, which was due to the Nationals scoring 2 runs or less in 16 of his starts (Strasburg had a 1.89 ERA in those games). I believe his lack of success in K's was due to his fastball command. Batters can't touch his curveball or changeup, so he just needs to throw more strikes earlier in the count. Washington should score runs this year, so Strasburg has 20 win upside and 225+ K upside with 200 plus innings. Don't sleep at the wheel when you are on the clock and he is in play as your ace. We need a clean spring training with no elbow issues.

2. SP Gio Gonzalez

Gio Gonzalez fantasy baseball

Gio had a tough April (5.34 ERA) and really struggled with walks over his first 14 starts of the year (39 walks in 84.7 innings - 4.1 walk rate). He was able to lower his walk rate to 3.0 over his last 110.7 innings. Gonzalez had success against both RH (.239) and LH (.204) batters, but 68 of his 76 walks were to righties (59/17 split in 2012). His win total was short just like Strasburg, but he pitched poorly in close, low scoring games (0-7 with a 4.30 ERA when Washington scored 2 runs or less). Gio failed to capitalize on some wins as the Nationals scored 6 runs or more 14 times (8-0) when he was on the mound. His AFB (92.0) was a step back from 2012. He throws a curveball as his #2 pitch, followed by an improving changeup. Furthermore, his GB rate (43.9%) was his lowest since 2008. Overall, his sinker lost value in 2013 (batters hit .333 against it), but they still can't touch his curveball (.108). Gonzalez is a nice major league arm with more upside if his command could make another step forward. His ERA has been rock solid over the last 4 seasons. Solid 15 win pitcher with 200+ K upside, but he has WHIP risk without growth in his walk rate.

3. SP Jordan Zimmerman

Jordan Zimmerman fantasy baseball

Zimmermann ended up being the most successful starter for the Nationals last season. He allowed 2 runs or less in 21 of his 32 starts, but he had one disaster start in each month from May to August. Jordan is a strike throwing machine with an elite walk rate (1.7), but his K rate (6.8) was a career low. He was 17-1 in games when Washington scored 3 runs or more, but he was 2-8 with a 4.45 ERA in games when they scored 2 runs or less. Zimmerman was very good against RH batters (.212), but was just average against lefties (.262). His AFB (93.9) was in line with 2012, while his slider continues to be his #2 pitch (followed by a curveball and show me changeup). His GB rate (47.6%) has risen over the last 2 seasons. Jordan had a 2.26 ERA in his 28 starts without his disaster outings (28 runs in 18 innings). He is very good major league arm, but his lack of K's makes him a step down from a fantasy ace. He has 15 win upside, but his run support might not repeat in 2014. Overall, he really needs a swing and miss off speed pitch against lefties to have growth in K's.

4. SP Doug Fister

Doug Fister fantasy baseball

The Tigers made a smart move by dumping Fister. He showed signs of decline with his jump in hits per 9 innings over the last 2 seasons (8.6 in 2011, 8.7 in 2012, and 9.9 in 2013). Doug has plus command (1.9) with a declining K rate (6.9). Fister struggled to get RH batters out (.302), and allowed 2 runs or less in 17 of his 32 starts. Doug had a bad run in late June to early July when he allowed 6 runs in 3 of 4 starts (19 runs and 37 base runners in 22.3 innings). His GB rate (54.3%) was a career high and it has increased over his last 3 seasons. In addition, his AFB (88.8) was in line with his 2012 season. His curveball is his #2 pitch, followed by a solid slider and an improving changeup. His velocity was shorter on his curveball and changeup in 2013. Last year, batters only had a tough time hitting his curveball (.187). Overall, Fister is a soft tosser that didn't have his best stuff in 2013. He is a GB pitcher, so maybe a few too many ground balls made it through the infield. His command will keep him in the game during most starts. Fister falls in the steady category with limited upside.

5. SP Tanner Roark

Tanner Roark fantasy baseball

Roark would draw some attention from fantasy owners if they just look at his ERA (1.51) and his win/loss record (7-1). He has a career 4.04 ERA in the minors with 573 K's in 667.7 innings. He spent part of 3 seasons at AA, and went 6-17 at AAA in 2012 with a 4.39 ERA. His AFB (92.6) was just major league average, while his #2 pitch was a slider, followed by a curveball and changeup. Tanner was a GB pitcher (50.0%) during his first season. His command (1.8) was elite with the Nationals thanks to a plus first strike % (71%). However, his K rate (6.7) came in short. Roark dominated RH batters (.157 with no HR's allowed in 108 at bats), but he struggled to strike out LH batters (7 K's in 80 at bats - .263). I can't totally write him off as he did flash a plus season at High A in 2009 (10-0 with 2.70 ERA with 91 K's in 86.7 innings). His resume says he's a fraud, but his command gives him a chance at short term success. I don't trust him.

6. SP A.J. Cole

A.J. Cole fantasy baseball

Cole struggled at High A (4.25 ERA), but he was able to get promoted to AA where he pitched at a high level (2.18 ERA with 49 K's in 45.3 innings). His command (2.1) and K rate (9.5) have been strong during his entire career. He has a mid 90's fastball with an upside curveball and a developing changeup. A.J. has flashed upside over the short term, but he has struggled when making a step up in competition. At this point, it is a close call between Nate Karns. Nate has the better overall resume (2.66 ERA with 362 K's in 304 innings), but Cole has the edge in command and age. A.J. may emerge as the 5th starter at some point this season.

7. SP Ross Detwiler

Ross Detwiler fantasy baseball

Detwiler allowed 3 runs or less during his first 9 starts of the year before fading in a pair of starts in June (17 base runners and 11 runs in 9.7 innings). His season ended in early July when he developed a back problem. Ross only threw over 100 pitches once. He had the best command (1.8) of his career, but his K rate (4.9) was a career low. His AFB (92.1) was lower than 2012 (threw it 88.0% of the time). The value of his curveball has declined in each of his last 3 seasons and his changeup barely has a pulse. He will compete for the 5th starting job, but Washington has suggested that he will pitch in relief in 2014. At this point of his career, he is a one dimensional pitcher.

8. CL Rafael Soriano

Rafael Soriano fantasy baseball

Soriano has saved over 40 games in 3 of his last 4 seasons. His command (2.3) was stronger than his last 2 years, but he had a huge drop in his K rate (6.9). Rafael struggled with LH batters (.274). In July and August, Soriano allowed 5 HR's in 22.7 innings, which led to a 5.56 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. He converted 43 of 49 saves. His slider had a huge drop in value (batters hit .297 against it with a .531 SLG %) and he only threw it 15.5% of the time, compared to 40.1% in 2012. His cutter ended up being his #1 pitch, while his AFB (91.5) was a career low. Overall, Soriano looks like a tough swing this year. I don't like the drop in velocity, I don't like the decline in the value of his slider, and I don't like the drop in K rate. Solid resume over the last 5 years and maybe he just wasn't healthy last season. The Nationals should win plus games, so the closer will have value in 2014.

9. RP Tyler Clippard

Tyler Clippard fantasy baseball

Clippard has been tough to hit over the last 5 seasons. His command (3.0) was the 2nd best of his career, while his K rate (9.3) was his lowest since 2008. He dominated both RH (.151) and LH (.152) batters, but his AFB (92.1) was his lowest since 2009. He throws a changeup as his # 2 pitch, followed by a curveball and a cutter. Tyler is a high FB pitcher (55.8%) and had a high HR/9 rate (1.1). Batters hit under .175 against every pitch he threw. Overall, his only negative is his walk rate. Every other thing points to closer ability. If Soriano fails, Clippard should get the first call.

10. RP Drew Storen

Drew Storen fantasy baseball

Storen has fallen out of favor in Washington and they would like to trade him. His command (2.8) and K rate (8.5) fell in line with his career resume, while his ERA (4.52) took a beating due less value on his four seam fastball (.304) and sinker (.364 - .558 SLG %). He allowed runs in 8 of his first 18 outings (11 runs - .5.21 ERA). Drew had a 2nd bad run in July when he allowed 14 runs over 8.3 innings. Storen pitched better over the last 2 months of the year (1.40 ERA), but didn't have success against RH (.268) or LH (.267 -. 485 SLG %). His AFB (93.9) has also declined in each of the last 2 years (was a career low last season). His slider is his #2 pitch, followed by an improving changeup. His drop in velocity is a concern, but I have a feeling he may emerge as an important part of the Nationals team this season.


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