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Tom Milone earned his first career win last week in New York.
Davey Johnson is currently using a six-man rotation, with only two of those six names guaranteed of jobs in 2012: Stephen Strasburg and John Lannan. (Jordan Zimmermann, of course, already secured his spot before being shut down for the season a few weeks ago.)
The other four guys getting a chance to audition this month: Chien-Ming Wang, Ross Detwiler, Brad Peacock and Tommy Milone. Each has shown something to suggest he deserves a shot next year, though none has been consistent enough to lock down a spot.
Wang is the most-accomplished member of the group, a 31-year-old who has started 114 big-league games in his career, posting a 58-29 record and 4.17 ERA. He's also made the most progress over the last two months, all but eliminating any remaining questions about the state of his surgically repaired shoulder.
Detwiler is the most-hyped pitcher in the mix, the sixth overall pick in the 2007, a left-hander who can hit 95 mph with his fastball. But he remains something of an enigma, unable to sustain success deep into games and unable to help the Nats win as much as he'd like (his career record is a paltry 4-14).
Peacock may have the best pure stuff out of any of them, combining a mid-90s fastball with a sharp-breaking slider that helped him go 15-3 with a 2.39 ERA and 177 strikeouts in 146 2/3 innings in the minor leagues this season. But can a 41st-round draft pick really burst onto the scene like this and sustain that level of success in the big leagues?
Milone might be the most-polished pitcher in this discussion. He doesn't possess great "stuff," but his command is impeccable, leading to a 155-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio at Class AAA before his promotion. But can he be successful at this level with below-average stuff? His command will need to be pinpoint for him to have a chance.
Obviously, there's still plenty left to see out of all four of these pitchers. But the Nationals aren't going to have spots for all of them in 2012. There are at most two rotation spots up for grabs, maybe only one if GM Mike Rizzo manages to acquire another veteran starter over the winter.
So my question to all of you this morning is: How would you rank these four rotation contenders, based on what you've seen so far? Who have you been most impressed with? Who do you think is most deserving of a spot in next season's rotation?