With the Washington Nationals off to their best season in their short franchise history, the starting rotation has become the focus of the national media, with the exception of rookie sensation Bryce Harper. Led by the Nationals’ own young “big three”, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann, with support from newcomer, Edwin Jackson, the staff has become, arguably, the best in the major leagues. Currently, the entire pitching staff is leading the major leagues in ERA, WHIP, and strikeouts per nine innings, even with Chien-Ming Wang struggling in the fifth spot in the rotation.
This pitching dominance wasn’t a surprise, unlike many believed it to be. The few who follow the Nationals in the baseball nation knew that this has been planned by the front office ever since Mike Rizzo’s promotion to the General Manager position back in 2009. Finally, this season, for the first time, everything has clicked with the addition of Gio Gonzalez and the return of Stephen Strasburg. Obviously, the front office has very high hopes that this will continue into the future, but with a new contract for Zimmermann coming soon, the back end of the rotation may suffer.
Next season, Edwin Jackson will not be expected to return even if he keeps up one of his best seasons yet. Right now he is, astonishingly, the highest paid pitcher and the Nationals won’t look to pay him more with the majority of their cash reserved for renewing the contracts of Washington’s “stars”. Chien-Ming Wang on the other hand, will probably be a cheap pickup, but after three years with the Nationals he really hasn’t shown that he can revert back to the pitcher he was with the Yankees. With these two possibly out of the picture, this is a position where a young man from Xavier University could step up.
Drafted in the 22nd round of the 2009 MLB draft, left-hander Daniel Rosenbaum was never expected to be a major league pitcher, but since then a lot has changed. After a spectacular start in rookie ball at the end of the 2009 season, Rosenbaum was promoted to Single-A Hagerstown to begin the 2010 season. In 18 starts, his dominance continued with 84 strikeouts to 28 walks and a 2.32 ERA. This led to his promotion midseason to High-A Potomac, where nothing changed. Between 2010 and 2011, Rosenbaum started 26 games for Potomac with a 2.47 ERA and 1.154 WHIP, which again led to a quick promotion to Double-A Harrisburg where he is currently located.
So far, in his two seasons with Harrisburg, he has been even better than before. In fact, he has been so incredibly good that he was named a MiLB Organizational All-Star in 2011. His numbers show it all. In 19 combined starts, he has won 10 games with a 2.05 ERA and 1.005 WHIP, while pitching two complete games and striking out 84. If he continues on this pace, he should be promoted to Triple-A Syracuse by the end of this season, if not next.
Looking to the future, the best-case situation for the Nationals would be if Rosenbaum continued to breeze through Triple-A, and by the time of the start of the 2013 season, he makes some great starts in spring training. From there he could become a very solid back end starter for a very cheap price.
Even if Rosenbaum doesn’t pan out, the Nats will likely be able to plug the holes in the rotation in other ways. With Matt Purke, Alex Meyer, and others in the minors plus Ross Detwiler available in the mix, they could have a solution there. Now that the Nationals are winning, they may be able to convince free agents to come fill any open rotation spots.