As part of a starting rotation that features Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann, Tanner Roark often gets lost as part of the shuffle. The 27 year old Roark is a late bloomer, and someone many people around the major leagues never considered to be a true threat to make the big leagues, much less develop into a solid starter.
Just 18 months ago, any team in baseball could have claimed Roark for the low price of $50,000. As every team in the league passed on him, he remained in Washington. For a team that is beginning to develop a reputation around the MLB for failing to maximize its talent, it appears that the Washington Nationals have finally hit on a player that no one else believed had potential.
Since joining Washington last August, Roark has garnered an ERA of 1.98 and a record of 9-1. When these numbers are contrasted against his record of 6-17 from AAA Syracuse two years ago, people question Roark’s staying power. Once he is analyzed further, however, it is evident that Roark will become a permanent fixture in the Nats’ rotation.
After beginning his career with the big league club as a reliever, he transformed into the starter he was in the minor leagues. Over ten career major league starts, Roark has left the game without giving up a run five times while producing eight quality starts. This year, his 2.76 ERA is the lowest of any Nationals’ starter and he has an ongoing 19 and 1/3 inning scoreless streak. In 35 career innings at Nationals Park, Roark has only surrendered one run.
Onc of Roark’s greatest assets is his ability to command all four of his pitches for strikes. Though he does not overpower the hitter, he is the only pitcher on the Nationals’ staff who has four pitches all rated above the MLB-average efficiency.
Heading into the season, Roark was in a battle with Taylor Jordan for the final spot in the rotation. With Roark’s start to the season he is all but assured of the final spot in the rotation once Doug Fister returns from his injury. As the bigger names take up most of the national headlines, look for Roark to continue to quietly impress and help keep the Nationals in the pennant race at the end of the season.