Ross Detwiler was selected by the Washington Nationals as their first pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, and the organization was confident that Detwiler would end up being a front line left handed starter, along side John Lannan. One of those left handed draft picks looks like he will pan out as a starter, but it’s not the one from St. Louis.
Over the course of his MLB career, while fighting numerous lower body injuries, Detwiler has seen his ERA decrease, but he’s also seen his average velocity decrease and let his WHIP hover around 1.5. This season, Ross Detwiler has shown signs of sheer brilliance, but most of those moments were as a reliever.
You hate to see a player who was drafted as a high first round draft pick as a starter be converted to a reliever, but the Nationals are certainly in need of a left-handed bullpen pitcher. Both Doug Slaten and, more surprisingly, Sean Burnett have had extremely disappointing seasons from the ‘pen, and to compound the issue, the Nationals aren’t exactly hurting for starting pitchers at the moment. With Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann, and John Lannan all but guaranteed spots in the Opening Day 2012 rotation, it’s not likely Detwiler would have found himself in that mix.
It might not be the worst thing to move Detwiler to the bullpen considering his relative success there. As a reliever, his stats this season are impressive: a 1.80 ERA, 9K in 10 IP. Average it out over his career, and it is more impressive, with an 0.95 ERA, a 6.2 K/9 ratio and an impressive 1.105 WHIP. Detwiler’s career as a starter is less pretty. An ERA close to 5.00, a WHIP just under 1.6, and a propensity for injury don’t bode well for an innings-eating starter.
Detwiler isn’t slated to reach free agency until after the 2015 season, and he is making relative chump change on his current contract. That said, the Nationals will have to decide from here if he’s worth making future investments in, or if they want to try and trade him for another piece that may be a better fit for the team’s current roster. For my money, it’s worth seeing what Detwiler can do as a lefty bullpen guy next season. He’s proven he could be successful power lefty in short bursts, posting a 4.25 K/BB ratio when pitching in the 1st 3 innings this season, but that number decreases significantly, to 1.56, during innings 4 though 6. Hitters simply seem to “figure him out” after seeing him once through. Not to mention he’s cheaper than Doug Slaten, who the Nats will certainly not re-sign after his contract expires this season.
Unfortunately, I think Ross Detwiler as a starter should be a thing of the past, but Ross the Reliever could certainly be a thing of the future for the Nats bullpen.