Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where does Detwiler fit in?

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Ross Detwiler was roughed up by the Phillies last night.
The low point of last night's home finale surely was Ross Detwiler's pitching performance, one that saw the left-hander allow seven runs over 4 2/3 innings, all of the runs scoring via four homers. It was not the kind of performance Detwiler was looking for in his final 2010 appearance, but it probably felt appropriate for a guy who can't take very many positives out of this frustrating season.

After suffering a hip injury last winter that required major surgery, Detwiler missed more than half of the season and wound up making only eight big-league appearances (five starts). Within that timeframe, he went back on the DL with a recurrence of hip pain and returned in September only to pitch sporadically out of the bullpen until the Nats gave him two token starts the last week.

In the end, this was a wasted season for the Nationals' top 2007 draft pick. The club doesn't really know much more about his potential to be a big-league starter now than it did at this time last year. It didn't help that he never fully recovered from the hip surgery, leading to decreased velocity (his fastball ranged from 88 to 91 mph last night) and poor mechanics (Detwiler will work with Steve McCatty next spring on lengthening his stride to the plate, hoping to produce more velocity and less strain on his body).

"He's had pretty significant surgery there on his hip," Jim Riggleman said. "Steve and I were in the dugout pretty much from the first inning on really watching to see if he was OK. We checked with him every inning, and he said: 'I'm fine. My hip is fine.' But I don't know that he's totally gotten over that. I don't think his velocity's back to where he's going to be after an offseason of reconditioning without having to rehab from the injury. I think there's more velocity there than he's shown in his outings here."

What will Detwiler ultimately take from this season?

"Definitely a lot of patience," he said. "It was really my first surgery. I didn't know what it was going to take to be back. I thought I'd get back a lot quicker, but I'm feeling a lot better."

Where, though, does that leave the 24-year-old in the organization's short-term and long-term plans? No fewer than five current starters already rank ahead of Detwiler on the depth chart (Livan Hernandez, Jason Marquis, Jordan Zimmermann, John Lannan, Yunesky Maya) and Mike Rizzo stated clearly yesterday he wants to acquire another front-line pitcher this winter. That would bump Detwiler even further down the totem pole.

The Nationals aren't going to give up on a first-round draft pick only 3 1/2 years after he was drafted sixth in the country. But they certainly don't appear to be counting on Detwiler to play a significant role heading into 2011.

The scary thing is that Detwiler has actually had more success than several other pitchers the Nats have drafted in early rounds over the last four years. Colton Willems (first round, 2006) retired this year. Josh Smoker (supplemental first round, 2007) went 3-10 with a 6.50 ERA at low-Class A Hagerstown this year. Jack McGeary (the sixth-round pick in 2007 who got first-round money) owns a 5.05 ERA in 49 career minor-league games and had Tommy John surgery this summer. Aaron Crow (first round, 2008) of course never signed with the Nats and has proceeded to amount to very little in the Royals' farm system.

Yes, Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen emerged from the 2009 draft, but the fact remains that the Nationals haven't established a great track record on drafting pitchers over the last four years.

Perhaps Detwiler will come back fully healthy next spring, seize a spot in the rotation away from one of those other guys and go on to be a productive big-league pitcher. To this point, though, there have been very few indications he's likely to do that, culminating with this disheartening season for the lefty.

26 comments:

Doc said...

Drafting pitchers is like picking a number to win the lottery. Since the beginning of the draft, no first round draftees have ever made it to the HOF, and in fact the combined accumulated records for first round picks hovers somewhere around .500.

Probably a better strategy would be to pick the best postion players in the first few rounds, and in time, make trades for pitchers after they have a proven track record. At the same time, drafting what is perceived as the best pitchers available in later rounds.

Many pitchers have thrown the best stuff they are going to throw by the time they have been drafted.

Sec3MySofa said...

"Mike Rizzo stated clearly yesterday he wants to acquire another front-line pitcher this winter. That would bump Detwiler even further down the totem pole."
Unless, of course, they trade one or more of the above for said ace. But even then, I don't like his odds. I never have seen what they see in him.

Anonymous said...

Cliff Lee...enough said!

Anonymous said...

Detweiler is probably a AAA pitcher who will get an occasional start now and then next season.

Feel Wood said...

The Nats need to sign Adam Dunn...as Detwiler's personal nutrition consultant. The kid needs to beef up, big time. He looks even more wispy now than he did when he was drafted. The hell with his hip. Ya think maybe he has a tapeworm?

HHover said...

In the scheme of things, yesterday doesn't mean much for Detwiler. A good final outing couldn't have done much more than provide him a psychological boost to end a disappointing season, but his lousy outing didn't even do that.

His chances are pretty marginal, but he's cheap, so he'll get a look next spring. But unless his velocity is back up, I wouldn't expect to see him after March.

Anonymous said...

Detwiler has only played one year at the same level, 2008 at Potomac. For all their talk about letting players achieve sustained success they have not given him the chance to do so. Changing his arm slot, letting him change it back, hip surgery. How can he be expected to be a consistent starter after all that.

Start him at Syracuse, leave him there for 25 starts the decide based on his recults.

Anonymous said...

make that "then decide based on his results"

erocks33 said...

Hey Mark (and everyone else) --

Can someone confirm for me that once the season ends (or sometime around when the World Series ends), don't teams need to place those players that are on the 60-day DL back onto the 40-man roster?

If so, then what do you think the Nats will do with all of their extra players? I currently count 7 players on the 60-day DL (Luis Atilano, JD Martin, Strasburg, Tyler Walker, CM Wang, Flores and Willingham), which gives a grand total of 47 players on the current roster. At least 7 of these players would have to be released, right? If so, which ones would you just outright release?

Off the top of my head, I'd outright release: Tyler Walker, Wil Nieves, Willie Harris and Kevin Mench. Then I'd release and try and sign to a minor-league deal Justin Maxwell, Ryan Mattheus, Jesse English and Matt Chico.

Thoughts?

Feel Wood said...

I think the 40-man roster is kind of a flexible concept up until the time of the Rule 5 draft at the Winter Meetings, at which point it needs to be finalized with no 60-day DL allowed. But also remember that players who become FAs at the end of a season no longer count against the 40-man unless and until they are resigned. This means that in addition to Dunn, other guys like Willie Harris, Kevin Mench and Miguel Batista will not count against the 40-man because they will be FAs.

Anonymous said...

Good question, erocks 33. I think anyone who's a free agent drops off the 40-man until re-signed. This would include Batista, Kennedy (if club option not exercised), and Dunn (gulp). Also, two arbitration-eligibles may not be tendered contracts (Olsen, for sure & Slaten maybe). So, lopping off seven bodies wouldn't seem to be difficult, although there would also have to be room for free agent signees.

However, anyone with 4 years in the minors who signed at 19 or older or 5 years who signed at 18 or younger would have to be added to the roster or risk a Rule 5 draft. Not that any of the following will necessarily be drafted, but it could include the following who have had some success in the minors: Adam Carr, Jeff Mandel, Josh Wilkie, Chuck Janes, Ryan Tatusko, Brad Myers, Adrian Alaniz, and last but not least, Chris Marrero.

CoverageisLacking said...

Personally I have never been a fan of Detwiler. But in any case, I think anon @1:40 has it exactly right.

The Nats have messed around with Detwiler's mechanics ever since they drafted him. At this point, he does not look comfortable in his delivery. And, Mark, I think you are missing it to say that his injury has led to poor mechanics. The question that you should be asking is whether his mechanics (which the Nats have repeatedly tinkered with to poor results) led to the injury in the first place.

Detwiler never has excelled in the minors during any kind of prolonged stint. To a large extent, that's the Nats' fault, as they have moved him around so much and rushed him such that he never has had the chance to establish himself. Dominance at a lower can be extremely helpful to a pitcher's development.

I second the call that the Nats should forget about Detwiler in the big league rotation next year, stick him at Syracuse, and see if he can put it together.

souldrummer said...

Josh Smoker has been converted to a closer at Hagerstown. Yes, he's been a mess so far and could probably be classified as a bust. I have a hard time calling relievers real prospects at the lower levels. That said, he might be able to be something as a two pitch back end of the bullpen guy that he wasn't as a starter. Don't know what their plans are for Smoker. There has to be a real chance that he's going to be closing or pitching high leverage innings at some point for Potomac next year.

But no, I don't think you'll see high school pitchers like Smoker or McGeary picked high in the draft for the Nats anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Except for AJ Cole of course.

Anonymous said...

What you definitely don't do is give up on a 24 year old lefty who even this year has shown some flashes. I am not opposed to sending him to the minors for half a year as long as he is not one of your best 5 starters; as things stand now I am not sure that this is the case.

BQ said...

After coming back from the hip surgery in February, Ross performed well in minors to earn the call up to big leagues in July. He responded with 1-3 W-L, 4.45 ERA, .288 AVG against, and low SO numbers. He is not ready for majors. You can look up his SO, BB, etc numbers at baseball-reference. He needs more time in minors.

I am not ready to give up on him either. We desperately need front of the rotation pitching next season but rushing a youngster is not going to help. I also hope that Nationals do not trade him to get a front of the rotation starter. He is still young and can develop into the SO, mid-rotation pitcher we all hoped he would be.

So basically with next season in mind, I don't want Nationals to count on Ross to be part of the rotation at the big stage.

Mark Zuckerman said...

erocks33: Yes, the guys on the 60-day DL will need to be placed back on the 40-man roster before the Rule 5 draft in December. But as the other comments noted, anyone who becomes a free agent (Dunn, Batista, Harris, Mench, Walker, maybe Kennedy) or is non-tendered (Olsen, maybe Nieves, maybe Wang) comes off the 40-man.

You'll start reading about a lot of minor roster moves (players outrighted, DFA'd, released, etc.) next week as the Nats begin the process.

N. Cognito said...

We should jettison Detwiler. He was drafted waaaay back in 2007 and essentially missed a year because of a hip injury.
And he's way behind what's expected of him. He should be a 10-15 game winner by now.

JayB said...

Well your kinda right....they should not count on him in any way for the future until he gets serious about his conditioning and he gets his 95-96 MPH fastball back.

souldrummer said...

@Anonymous 3:29PM
Cole's a different case. Cole was a 4th round pick after we had drafted a no brainer high school position player in Bryce Harper, a low floor college arm in Sammy Solis, and a middle infielder that Rizzo likes in Rick Hague. If you've made 3 solid picks like that and are willing to spend the money on overslot guys, it's suddenly responsible to get a riskier high school guy with your 4th pick.

I didn't really have a problem with McGeary and I haven't given up on him. He was starting to make progress before TJ surgery this year.

Anonymous said...

Detwiler will get an offseason to get healthy and work on his mechanics, then after spring training will probably (unless he suddenly pitches lights-out) end up in the rotation in Syracuse. I'd much rather have a Detwiler type in the AAA rotation than a washed up journeyman (Tim Redding type).

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

After the busts of Smoker, Detwiler, Crow -- and Strasburg still a big unknown -- the star of the Nats' pitching draft selections is Drew Storen. That speaks volumes.

Anonymous said...

I think CoverageisLacking is right on the mechanics issue. I remember references to that when St. Claire left. He and Detwiler had apparently sparred over what St. Claire wanted and what Detwiler had always done. When St. Claire left Detwiler made some reference (in the WaPo)to going back to what he had done (cross-fire; throwing across his body). I think the issue of mechanics and the injury are also spot on. As a former coach, I can tell you kids would rather die trying to be successful on thheir own terms than adjust their mechanics in an effort to be successful. Agree with those who think he ought to spend a good bit of time in Syracuse next year.

BQ said...

'Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me' is way too pessimistic for me. Dude, have some faith in Rizzo and front office. They will do what needs to be done I am sure of it.

Section 222 said...

Welcome back to @CoverageisLacking. Haven't seen you much around these parts, and your perspective has been missed. (Perhaps you've been posting as one of the many Anons, and I just didn't make the connection.) I know your name referred to the coverage at the biggest newspaper in town, but hopefully you agree that with Mark here and Ben at masn.com, along with Kilgore, the overall coverage has been pretty good this year.

Cheers!

natsfan1a said...

With Anons abounding as they do here, it's to be expected that one might miss a connection from time to time, sec. 222. Maybe we need a scorecard to tell all the players. ;-)

Also, I'm not CiL, but I do share your opinion that overall coverage improved tremendously this past year.

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