The more I think about, the more I realize that the most important thing in this season for the Nats isn’t going to happen at the major league level. Assuming that they do take Strasburg (and maybe it’s a big assumption, but I’m going with it) the thing that I am going to most concerned with is not in DC. I’m not getting myself worked up over the record right now, or the starting pitching. Olsen and Lannan are 0 for 4 in terms of quality starts, while they combined for 39 of them last year. So I think they’ll come around into being something decent. I was never thrilled with Cabrera, and except for one inning his start wasn’t bad. Martis hasn’t pitched enough to disappoint me.
What I’m really concerned about this year is Ross Detwiler. Everything about him. His Ks, his BBs, his velocity, his arm, his hat size, his demeanor, his record… you name it, I want to know. Because I’ve seen Zimmermann, and I think he’ll be good in the majors. And I’ve heard what everyone has been saying about Strasburg. But Detwiler… Detwiler is they key. He’s a 6’5″ lefty, was the #6 pick in 2007, and the first half of his 2008 wasn’t very good. But he picked it up in the second half, and he’s starting out this year in AA, with one decent start (5 IP, 4K, 2 BB, 5 H, 0 ER) under his belt.
Why? Well it’s pretty simple. I like Olsen and Lannan, but I think they are capable back-of-the-rotation starters rather than frontline guys. Which means next year having a good Detwiler is the difference between just adding an ace (with Strasburg) or adding a #1 and a second top tier guy. The top of the rotation is either gonna be Strasburg, Zimmermann then lots of ok-ness, or Strasburg, Zimmermann and Detwiler. Now, if Zimmermann was projected to be truly special, and you were looking at a Johnson-Schilling combo at the top, I’d be less concerned. But he’s not, so they need quality arms up top, and Detwiler is key. His success, and his readiness to be a frontline starter, will determine how much this team stands to improve in 2010. Otherwise, it’s going to be lots of small steps. I’d like to see a big big step myself.