Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

Who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?


Craig Stammen looks set to lead a potentially weak 2012 AAA rotation. Photo unknown via

We all know who went the other way in the Gio Gonzalez trade; A significant portion of our starter depth, especially at or near the majors.  Both Tommy Milone and Brad Peacock got a few starts in September last year, and both fared relatively well (albeit against somewhat weakened or dis-interested opponents).

Prior to the Gonzalez signing, one would have thought that the MLB 2012 rotation was mostly set, with Ross Detwiler taking the 5th spot over Milone and Peacock by virtue of his (lack of) options status.  That would have left both these younger starters in AAA waiting for their opportunity.  With them now in Oakland’s organization … who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?  Who represents our starter depth in case someone gets hurt?

At the end of the 2011 season, if one had to guess Syracuse’s 2012 rotation you would have probably guessed it to be Milone, Peacock, Brad Meyers, Craig Stammen and Yuniesky Maya.  This would essentially be the same rotation Syracuse ended their regular season with (replacing spot starter JD Martin with Milone, who by that point had departed for the majors).  Now consider this same group:

  • Milone: traded to Oakland
  • Peacock: traded to Oakland
  • Meyers: picked up by New York in the rule 5 draft
  • Martin: signed a minor league FA deal with Miami

Only Stammen and Maya now remain, and frankly I’m not sure who else the team is going to get to start in Syracuse in 2012.  Here’s a list of every one who made starts in 2011 at Syracuse: Red means they’re no longer with the organization, Blue means they were making re-hab starts or were starts by guys who are out of options for 2012 and aren’t appearing in Syracuse:

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Tom Milone 12 6 3.22 1.03 24 24
Craig Stammen 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24
Yuniesky Maya 4 9 5 1.24 22 22
Brad Meyers 6 5 3.48 1.31 17 16
Ross Detwiler 6 6 4.53 1.49 16 16
J.D. Martin 3 7 3.93 1.13 30 14
Brad Peacock 5 1 3.19 1.25 9 9
Garrett Mock 0 3 6.28 1.67 16 4
Erik Arnesen 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3
Ryan Tatusko 3 4 4.54 1.79 23 2
Chad Gaudin 0 2 4.38 1.62 6 2
Chien-Ming Wang 0 1 6.75 1.59 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 0 0 1.8 0.4 1 1
Tom Gorzelanny 0 1 9 1.5 1 1

So, by category of starts:

  • 69 were made by players no longer with Washington (including Rule-5 draftee Meyers, who may very well be returned but for now is a New York Yankee)
  • 20 were made by Detwiler and other MLBers on re-hab assignments.
  • the remaining 51 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.

That’s 63% of your AAA starts made by guys who won’t be making any 2012 AAA starts for this organization.

Well, you may say, perhaps we should just be expecting all those AA pitchers from 2011 to be rising up.  Except that our AA rotation was filled with reclamation projects and minor league free agents in 2011.  Here’s a comparable look at those who made AA starts for the franchise in 2011 (again, with red and blue indicating the same as above):

Name W L ERA whip G GS
Shairon Martis 8 6 3.05 1.22 23 23
Tanner Roark 9 9 4.69 1.4 21 21
Erik Davis 5 7 4.79 1.61 19 18
Erik Arnesen 8 4 2.43 1.1 26 16
Oliver Perez 3 5 3.09 1.39 16 15
Brad Peacock 10 2 2.01 0.86 16 14
Ryan Tatusko 2 4 5.94 1.83 12 9
Daniel Rosenbaum 3 1 2.29 0.97 6 6
Brad Meyers 3 2 2.48 0.96 6 6
Jimmy Barthmaier 5 3 5.05 1.55 39 2
Carlos Martinez 3 4 5.34 1.42 32 2
Chien-Ming Wang 2 0 0 0.73 2 2
Garrett Mock 0 1 13.5 2.05 2 2
Luis Atilano 0 1 13.5 2.5 2 2
Stephen Strasburg 1 0 0 0.17 1 1
Evan Bronson 0 0 2.25 1.75 1 1
Henry Rodriguez 0 0 0 0.75 3 1
Doug Slaten 0 0 0 1 1 1

AA Start Summary:

  • 67 were made by players no longer with Washington (including all minor league Free Agents for the time being, even though some may re-sign eventually)
  • 4 were re-hab assignments by current MLBers.
  • the remaining 71 games made by guys who may or may not feature in 2012.  This includes a few starts by Arneson

That’s 50% of your AA starts made by guys no longer with the organization or re-hab starts.  Arneson pitched well enough, but he’s no prospect; he’s 28 and starting his 6th minor league year.  Roark and Tatusko both struggled in 2011 and seem destined for the bullpen.  Davis was demoted, Bronson only called up for a spot AA start, and Rosenbaum pitched well in 6 late season starts but needs more AA seasoning.  So not a lot of help coming up from Harrisburg.

Luckily, the Nats have been adding minor league free agent signings left and right, guys who probably will feature.  By my notes, here’s the arms we’ve added so far this off season:

  • Matthew Buschmann, rhp: taken in the rule5 draft (AA phase) from San Diego, he was reasonably successful in 2011 in the AA Texas league before getting pounded in 20 appearances (15 starts) in AAA.  By virtue of his rule-5 drafting, he’s pretty much guaranteed to be on the AAA roster in some capacity.  He is a starter; will be be one of Syracuse’s starters?
  • Joaquin Waldis, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (former club: San Francisco) with an invite to Spring Training.  He was a reliever all of 2011 and was most likely signed to provide some depth in the middle relief phase.  Not a starter option.
  • Jeff Fulchino, rhp, signed to a 1yr ML FA (Houston), invite to ST (split contract).  Was relatively mediocre for Houston and San Diego last year, again signed for some reliever depth/spring training competition.
  • Robert Gilliam, a rhp thrown into the Gonzalez trade, is a starter but only was at Oakland’s Class-A entry in the California League last year.  He seems set to be in the AA rotation in 2012.
  • Mike Ballard, a lhp starter given a 1yr ML FA (Baltimore), invite to ST.  He was relatively effective for Baltimore’s AA affiliate in Bowie, but less so at AAA Norfolk, where he started the season.  He is a full-time starter and seems a likely candidate for our AAA rotation.

Ok, It seems like we may have our answer.  It looks like your AAA rotation will be Stammen, Maya, Arneson, Buschmann and Ballard.  Here’s a quick rundown on these 5 guy’s AAA numbers for 2011:

Name Age as of 4/1/12 W L ERA whip G GS CG SHO SV ip H R ER HR hb bb so
Craig Stammen 28 10 7 4.75 1.43 25 24 1 1 0 142 163 80 75 18 1 40 127
Yunesky Maya 30 4 9 5 1.24 22 22 1 0 0 129.2 133 73 72 14 5 28 98
Erik Arnesen 28 0 2 3.57 1.42 3 3 0 0 0 17.2 22 7 7 2 0 3 15
Mike Ballard 28 2 4 4.91 1.624 10 9 1 1 0 51.1 66 31 28 7 17 38
Matthew Buschmann 28 6 5 7.31 1.837 20 15 1 0 0 88.2 129 75 72 11 33 60

Without sounding too judgmental … that’s not a lot of AAA depth in case something happens.  Only 2 of these 5 are even on the 40-man, and those who are have either proven to be ineffective at the major league level (Maya) or seem destined to be used as middle relief/organization filler (Stammen).  If Meyers gets returned, look for him to replace Arneson one for one (since Arnesen seems destined to be the minor league utility guy, as he was used last year).

I’d have to say; if someone goes down with injury, we’ll most likely look from within the MLB bullpen (in the form of Gorzelanny or Detwiler) for starts.

14 Responses to 'Who is going to start for Syracuse in 2012?'

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  1. Bleh. We need more pitchers!


    4 Jan 12 at 1:43 pm

  2. Seriously. If we get hit with injuries, this season could go down in flames, quickly. There’s not a whole lot in Harrisburg either; i’m projecting a rotation there of Rosenbaum, Bronson, Solis, Demny, Gilliam. Solis clearly the big name, and perhaps he could make the jump … but he’s also visited the tommy john surgeon this offseason. bad news.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 12 at 3:01 pm

  3. There are still six weeks until ST ramps up, and plenty of 4A arms left in the FA ranks. SYR lost their 2012 #1 & #2 in the Gonzalez trade, but can still field a probable rotation of Stammen / Maya (if healthy) / Tatusko / Arnesen / Ballard / Buschmann. If Meyers get returned from the Yanks, then the odd men out get re-assigned to HAR, joining Roark / Gilliam / Rosenbaum / Demny.

    It looks a bit shallow right now, but it’s still better than the Org. provived in 2008-09.


    4 Jan 12 at 3:09 pm

  4. Yeah … sure we can just get 6-year FA filler, but that’s not exactly building confidence in our starter depth. I get the feeling Tatusko is going to be a reliever. What reports are you seeing that Maya is hurt? I hadn’t seen anything to that extent.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 12 at 4:13 pm

  5. The Nats had better get Meyers back; that sure was dumb exposing him even before the trade.
    The two guys that we should most be paying attention to are Rosenbaum & Arnesen. They’re both capable of breakout seasons.

    Maya’s looking more and more like AAAA, which is perfect for Syracuse.

    Mark L

    4 Jan 12 at 4:36 pm

  6. Todd: Maya shut himself down in his 1st DWL appearance, complaining of elbow discomfort, IIRC; Check the winter league stats. The MLB starter depth will still probably have Detwiler & Gorzelanny as fall-back options for a rotation guy who misses a start through May. With a little luck (and Stammen in SYR), the big club shouldn’t need to go deeper than 8 SP’s until after the trade deadline.


    4 Jan 12 at 4:49 pm

  7. Wow, I did not see that. Not that Maya was the solution for 2012 … but you hate to see that happen.

    Using Detwiler as a starter i’m ok with. Gorzelanny? There was a reason he was relieved of his starter duties. Stammen? What’s he got, a career 80 era+? We better hope these guys stay healthy.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 12 at 5:05 pm

  8. Looking dumber and dumber. They’ve never broached the 40-man limit (the max they’ve gotten to was 37 this offseason) and sit at 36 right now. Think they’d like to have stashed Komatsu and Meyers??

    Arneson? I’m doubtful. If he hasn’t figured it out by his 6th minor league season the odds are pretty stacked against him.

    Todd Boss

    4 Jan 12 at 5:06 pm

  9. We’ve gone round & round on this before; age is very important with minor league hitters, pitchers no. Arnesen was not bad last year at all, just has never had hot prospect attached because he’s a soft tosser.
    Sometimes the light bulb goes on.

    Off topic, Tracy Ringolsby, terrific writer for the Denver Post, just wrote a piece for Baseball America on why Jack Morris should be in the Hall of Fame.
    I agree.

    Mark L

    4 Jan 12 at 7:36 pm

  10. I dunno that it was that dumb. I bet we get both of Komatsu and Meyers back and that means we don’t have to put them on the 40 man and can deny them an option.


    4 Jan 12 at 8:31 pm

  11. “You bet we get them both back.” That’s the thing; its a risk. Was it worth the risk to lose them in order to NOT put them on the 40-man? Now the team desperately needs competent AAA starter depth (Meyers) and a center fielder (Komatsu). Why did we ask for Komatsu in trade with Hairston if we weren’t going to protect him? We had to know he was rule5 eligible upon acquiring him. Why have we promoted and nurtured Meyers up to the point where he’s a decent to good AAA pitcher if we weren’t going to protect him? What does putting these guys on the 40-man roster cost us in terms of payroll? Nothing! There’s no additional payroll implication to putting a guy on the 40-man roster but keeping him at AAA that I’m aware of.

    Rizzo said at the time of the rule5 protection that he was happy with our depth and could sacrifice a couple of players. Do you think that’s still the case? We traded 4 of our top 10 prospects for Gonzalez; nobody is happy with our “depth” anymore.

    We should have done the exact same thing we did with Adam Carr in 2010; protect him, let him play an additional year in the minors, then outright him off the 40-man if he wasn’t worth it.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 12 at 9:17 am

  12. Agree on pitcher age to a certain extent, but still. Arneson is going to be 28 on opening day in 2012. How can you be in your 7th minor league season and be aged 28 and still be in the team’s plans? I just can’t believe he’s ever going to be seriously considered to be brought up. Look at a guy like Josh Wilkie; he’s slightly younger (but signed the same year as Arneson was drafted), promoted faster (he’s got two FULL seasons and parts of a third at AAA), more accomplished (much better numbers in his minor league time) and a reliever (meaning he’s much more flexible in usage and a better candidate for promotion). And Wilkie’s gone nowhere.

    I think, fairly or not, guys who are drafted 15th round or below are immediately labeled “team fillers” and they face a huge uphill task to make it to the majors. They stick around if they’re decent, they get cut if they’re not. Then suddenly they’re 6-year FAs having never been put on 40-man rosters and they’re 27-28 and wondering what they should do with themselves.

    Love Ringolsby’s stuff. Honestly i’m tired of reading about Morris; there’s SO many bloggers out there who put up stats to show why they think Morris is awful but who were not even BORN when he was in his prime and who somehow think that Brad Radke (by virtue of his better ERA+) was a better pitcher that its just depressing to have a conversation about it. Baseball writing is quickly devolving into statistical analysis; if you don’t have stats to prove your case, you’re an idiot, a dinosaur who doesn’t know how to probably analyze baseball. Meanwhile, there’s guys who SAW Morris, who saw his dominance, year in and year out, who saw him have more Cy Young-vote gathering seasons and more All star appearances than the stat-nerd beloved Bert Blyleven, who KNOW who was a better pitcher. Stats are important, but so is observation. Somehow people forget this.

    Todd Boss

    5 Jan 12 at 9:25 am

  13. […] minor league affiliates and who’ll be starting games there. Fortunately for us, Todd at Nationals Arms Race recently took a look at that very question with regards to the Triple-A Syracuse Chiefs. To put it […]

  14. […] Erickson has posted some predictions (for AAA, AA, high-A and low-A), I put in an updated guess on Syracuse’s rotation post Gonzalez trade, and I had a series of posts at the end of last […]

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