Age on Opening Day 2014: 27
How acquired: Trade with Texas Rangers, July 2010
2014 salary: N/A
2013 stats: 14 G, 5 GS, 53.2 IP, 38 H, 11 R, 9 ER, HR, 11 BB, 40 K, 0.913 WHIP, 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 2.41 FIP, 1.4 WAR
2014 storyline: Tanner Roark was one of the biggest surprises for the Nationals in 2013. He came up from Syracuse with a career 4.04 ERA in the minors, but quickly became a standout at the major league level. He was so good that Davey Johnson awarded him five starts in September, an audition in which he aced.
Now Roark enters 2014 hoping to remain in the rotation, but he'll have to beat out some other qualified candidates first. Roark, along with Ross Detwiler and Taylor Jordan, are expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation this spring. Depending on how you look at it, Roark could have a very good chance considering how he finished the year. He outshined Jordan and Detwiler's season was plagued by injury. We'll see who comes out on top.
Best-case scenario: Roark would very much like to win that fifth starter's job, as the alternative could mean beginning the year in Syracuse. Then again, he was even better as a reliever (1.19 ERA, .182 BAA) as he was starting games (1.74 ERA, .216 BAA) last season. A best-case scenario, however, would have Roark winning the rotation job, making over 20 starts and logging somewhere around 160 innings over the course of the year. If he were able to hold an ERA in the mid-3.00s along the way, he could make sure there's no competition for the spot this time next year.
Worst-case scenario: Roark is a low-key guy and wouldn't make a fuss about not making the roster out of spring. But no player wants to go back to Triple-A after experiencing life in the big leagues. A worst-case scenario for Roark would be a trip back to Syracuse and an unsuccessful stay while he's there. Roark was good with the Chiefs last year (3.15 ERA in 105 2/3 innings), but the year before went 6-17 with a 4.39 ERA. Those numbers wouldn't exactly turn heads in the front office if things are going well down in D.C.
Most-likely scenario: As long as Roark comes into spring pitching like he did last year, it's going to be very hard for Matt Williams and the Nationals to keep him off the roster. What he brings to the table is far too valuable. Even if Detwiler earns the fifth spot, Roark will likely be on the staff as a long reliever and the first man up in case of an injury to the rotation. I'd expect him to fill a variety of roles over the course of the season and end up with around 10 starts, 80 innings pitched and an ERA in the low-3.00s.