This gets revisted often, probably too often. But when you’re the worst pitching staff in the NL, it’s hard not to look down at the farm system to see how people are doing. Also, my assertion that with Zimmermann and Strasburg, you’ve gotta finding a third top flight pitcher would mean they could suddenly get very good pretty quick. Regardless, it’s also nice to see who might come up and pitch effectively, even if it’s not at the level of an ace. There’s news that the management has had a conversation with Cabrera, who knows what that means, but for now he’s still in the rotation. And, news flash, the bullpen continues to suck. So even though I’ve looked at this recently, let’s look at the latest numbers from some of these youngsters.

Ross Detwiler (AA)

Detwiler is potentially the top flight guy. At least he was drafted as such – the 23 year old was drafted 6th overall in the 2007 draft – and he’s a power arm lefty. He had a poor 2008 in the minors, although his second half showed promise. His stat this season are starting to look nice, despite not having a single win. In 27 1/3 IP, he’s got a 2.96 ERA, 28 H, 10 BB and 28 K. But he really struggled in one start. Not that you can do this, but take it out and his ERA plummets to 1.45. His periferals suggest he isn’t dominating at AA, he is giving up too many hits and walking too many. But he’s looking like he may be ready for AAA relatively soon, sooner than most thought coming in to 2009.

Craig Stammen (AAA)

Stammen has never been considered a top prospect, he was drafted by the Nationals in the 12th round in 2005 after a career at college baseball powerhouse University of Dayton. In AAA this year he’s now gone 6 starts without giving up more than 3 ER, and that only happened once. He’s probably not anyone’s savior, but he has a great ERA this year – 1.85 in 34 IP. He’s also only got 7 BBs, but only 11 Ks to add to that makes you wonder how he’ll fare against major leguers. The ground out to fly out ratio of 1.96 is excellent, though. Sinkerballers don’t necessarily need to strike people out to succeed. Unless, you know, you have the Nats defense playing behind you.

Collin Balester (AAA)

One of my favorite bloggers, Balester had a few successful starts in the majors last year, and it looked like he could be one of the future stars of the team. So far, the minors have not treated him very well in 2009: 31 IP, 4.94 ERA, 40 H, 12 BB and 24 K. But he started out ice cold, and has recovered from two atrocious starts. His numbers were better: 21 1/3 IP, 2.53 ERA, 26 H, 8 BB, 16 K, before last night. Then he went 3 innings last night, give up 11 hits and 7 ER. It’s was a setback considering how well he’s pitched the last few weeks, but not surprising when you look at all those hits and walks he was giving up. He still needs more time, but he is only 22, so patience is important.

Tyler Clippard (AAA)

He has had his ups and downs, literally (majors to minors to majors to minors) and figuratively (great starts and awful starts in NY), but this year has been all up. Except for the literally part. He’s down in the minors. Anyway, Clippard’s not starting anymore, but he’s pitched 18 1/3 innings for the Chiefs. In that time 0.98 ERA, 11 H, 8 BB, 22 K. He may not be a starter in the making these days, but is he the next guy to relieve this troubled group of relievers? In case you missed it last night – the Nats were up by a run with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th. They lost. Again. As Manny said, “We have tried everybody and their cousins, and we still can’t get anybody to put a zero up in the eighth and the ninth innings.”

Mike O’Connor (AAA)

O’Connor has continued to pitch well after moving from AA to AAA this year, although not quite as well. He’s started 3 games in each level, and his totals are nice, but let’s look at what he’s done in his 3 starts at the higher level. 14 2/3 IP, 18 H, 5 BB, 11 K, and a 3.68 ERA. Not bad, not great. Let’s see how he does after a couple of more starts – but he’s probably high on the list of callups.

Zechry Zincola (AA)

In 10 appearances this year, he’s given up 1 ER. He’s got an ERA of 0.82, but way too many walks – 6 in 11 IP. He has struck out 9 though. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up in AAA or soon. Although with this bullpen, the Nats could always do a crazy reshuffle again.

Colton Willems (A)

He’s not ready to come up yet, he’s playing down in Potomac at too low of a level. But Willems has started 2 games this year, and has a 0.00 ERA in in 11 IP. 7 K to 1 BB is nice as well, and he’s only given up 5 hits.  The #22 overall pick in 2006 may move up the farm system in a bit, but there is no rush here, he’s not yet 21 years old.

There’s probably more, but that’s what I see right now that’s worth mentioning. If I had to venture a guess, I think Craig Stammen is going to be the next guy to start. If he keeps up the work he’s doing now, it wont’ take an injury to get him up here, he’ll just replace someone. Clippard may also be in the bullpen relatively quickly. As for Detwiler, I think the organization will let him do his thing for now, but they are hoping for big things from him.

By Charlie