Get To Know A Nat 2014: Taylor Jordan

via @ANatsFan

via @ANatsFan

Taylor Jordan  DOB: January 17, 1989
Nicknames: TJ Max (just made that up cause he had Tommy John surgery and all)
From:  Merritt Island, Florida (Right near Viera).
Position: 5th Starter    Hand: Righty
With the Nats Since: Drafted by Nationals in 2009, Debut June 29, 2013

Who is this Guy? After battling with Tanner Roark, Chris Young, and Ross Detwiler for the last rotation spot, both he and Roark made the team once Doug Fister couldn’t make it out of Spring Training healthy. While he moved ahead of Detwiler (bullpen) and Young (cut, signed with Seattle), the real battle for a rotation spot is just beginning. He and Roark will have around a month to prove they belong with the club once Fister returns – and my money’s on Jordan.

What happened in 2013: Read the truly excellent GTKAN from last year here. Frank breaks down his five pitches – two-seam fastball, slider, change-up, four-seam fastball, and cutter – plus he points out that Jordan’s season didn’t really get going until he quit shaking off Wilson Ramos. Jordan began 2013 in Potomac, then advanced to AA Harrisburg before getting called up to the majors to when Dan Haren was “injured”. More telling though is that he stayed in the rotation once Haren returned until his Tommy John related shut down at 142 total innings and the world lost it’s mind.

What’s Expected:  A quick look at Jordan’s Fangraphs page reveals his key to success – getting groundballs. He induced grounders 57.5% of the time. Had Jordan had enough innings to qualify, that would have been just behind Justin Masterson’s 58% GB rate for second in all of baseball. His K/9 rate was a Lannan-esque 5.05 (anytime I compare anything to John Lannan – it’s not good), down from his minor league mark of just over 7.

His sinker is his bread-and-butter pitch and although his fastballs rate as below average, every off-speed pitch he throws (lead by the slider) rates as a plus pitch due to the contrast. Maintaining an elite groundball rate is tough to expect, but that’s the only way Jordan will stick in the majors. Hopefully he can add a few more strikeouts to take a little of the pressure off the defense and repeat his 3.50ish ERA/FIP from last season.

If It All Goes Right: Jordan proves he is the groundball machine he showed last year, gets his K/9 rate up around 7 and pitches all 180 innings or so in the majors this year as the Nats 5th starter before the Nats shut him down for the year.

If It All Goes Wrong: Jordan can’t offset his lack of K’s with grounders, the league adjusts to him and he his mashed back to the minors and Tanner Roark or someone else fills the last rotation spot upon Fister’s return. There’s a good chance that he pitches decent but not great and losses the spot to Roark more because of what Roark does than what he doesn’t do. If he ends up back in the minors, it’s not the end of the world. He did miss an entire year of development to the TJ surgery and is still learning the craft.

Every team needs at least 7 starters and if Jordan can continue his progression, he can remain one of those top 7 guys, if not one of the top 5. He was a real bright spot in the organization last year, and with both Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister entering the last year of their contracts next year, a strong 2014 from Taylor Jordan could give the Nats the flexibility to trade one of those guys to improve other areas of the team and maintain some cost control. Getting strikeouts is “the easy way”. Maintaining a GB% over 55% is “the hard way”. Fortunately he’s got a great mentor to watch in Fister – if he stay in the rotation with him.

Cue the Nats Archives new poster “The Hard Way” with Fister as James Woods and Jordan as Michael J. Fox.

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