NAME: Tanner B. Roark
DOB: October 5, 2 1986
Nicknames: I would suggest Johnny B. Good cuz he has that unknown middle initial. Also, there is the question of the pronunciation of his last name.
Twitter: None that I’ve found, but his sports agents at MCA Agency basically favorite anything good you say about him.
From: Wilmington, IL
Position: Currently 4th Starter (but that may change) Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Traded from Texas in 2010 as part of deal for Christian Guzman. Debut August 6, 2013
Just Who Is This Guy: Interesting question. When he first appeared on the scene he was Tanner Roark (pronounced like “Rourke.”) A few weeks into his fairly impressive debut, Roark let it be known that his name was actually Roark (pronounced Row-ark). Haven’t really found a concrete story about why he finally told folks how to say his name (I remember something about his grandma) but that’s my enduring impression of just who this guy is.
What Happened in 2013: After a series of poor pitching performances and injuries to Nationals pitchers, Tanner Roark was called up from Syracuse to make his major league debut in August of last year, and he did not disappoint. After nine appearances in relief in August (4-0, 1.19 ERA, 2.30 FIP, 0.93 WHIP) the Nats moved him to the starters role in September. He flourished there as well (3-1 1.74 ERA, 2.50 FIP 0.90 WHIP).
The fastball, slider, curve and change right-hander is typical with his stuff. The fastball is used most often and averages in the 92-93 range, with the slider and change up 10 MPH slower, and the curve averaging 77. It’s all about mixing up pitches and location for Roark-soemthing he did more than well enough in 2013.
What’s Expected in 2014: Accumulating 1.4 WAR in just two months is a pretty impressive feat, and one that will be very hard (if not impossible) for him to equal over a full season. Projections on Fangraphs (Steamer, Zips, etc.) seem to agree that if he manages to pitch a full season, he’ll be a high 3, low 4 ERA pitcher. Perfectly acceptable for a guy at the backend of the rotation.
With Ross Detwiler starting the year in the bullpen, Roark had been battling Taylor Jordan for the final spot in the starting rotation. That point is moot for at least the next few weeks as Doug Fister will be on the disabled list with a strained lat. Roark has been slotted to pitch fourth (Jordan 5th) and will start for the Nationals in their home opener against the Braves on Friday. While I’d feel more comfortable with Fister in there, there certainly is no time like the present to find out if Roark has what it takes to pitch in this league.
If It All Goes Right: Assuming Fister recovers (and there is no reason other than rampant pessimism not to), Roark is now on an extended audition for the final starting spots in the rotation. This may or may not be entirely up to him. Taylor Jordan will also be making starts, and one of them will have to move out of the way for Fister when he’s ready to come back. All going right might mean that Roark ends up in the bullpen even if he pitches very well (at the expense, in my mind, of Aaron Barrett). In any case, Roark has shown every indication he can contribute to the team as a right handed pitcher. If it goes well for Roark, it will mean he doesn’t go back to Syracuse because he’s too busy helping the Nats win.
If It All Goes Wrong: Roark’s regression from ridiculously high numbers is inevitable, but it is only a setback if it doesn’t course correct. There are two months of tape on him now from last year, and going forward there will be a lot more scouting available to other teams. The real possibility exists that Roark gets “figured out” by the rest of the league. This would probably mean more time in Syracuse for Roark. A set back like that wouldn’t be the end of the road for him by any stretch, but the rotation in 2014 is a lot more full than it was in 2012. Getting to the 25 man roster to start the season was a big break that Roark earned. Getting back in might be tough if he is sent back down.