Nationals Tanner Roark: Top-10 Starting Pitcher in 2017?

The Nationals relied on their pitching staff throughout the season. Tanner Roark finally had his breakout season. Can he do it again in 2017?

The Washington Nationals are in the playoffs for the third time and are looking for their first World Series title. They made it to the playoffs this time, mostly by the arms of their rotation. One major piece to their success was the breakout performance by Tanner Roark. Can he have similar success in 2017?

Roark was mostly used as a relief pitcher last season. He made 40 appearances and only 12 of them were starts. He ended the season with a 4-7 record, 4.38 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and a 70:26 K:BB ratio. As a result, fantasy owners weren’t rushing to their drafts looking for Roark.

And why would they? He wasn’t the team’s closer and when he did start, he wasn’t the best. In those 12 starts, he had a 4.82 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. He went undrafted in many ESPN fantasy leagues. To any owner who picked him up, they were rewarded with a wonderful season from a top-15 pitcher.

Roark set a lot of career highs this season. He had 33 starts, 16 wins, 2.83 ERA (I’m not counting the 1.51 ERA he had in 2013), 210 innings and 172 strikeouts.

His walk rate went up a full walk between last season and this, but I’m going to chalk that up to the increase innings.

Roark was able to keep the ball in the park. He allowed 17 home runs in each of the last two seasons. The only difference is the rate of home runs. He had a 1.4 HR/9 in 2015 and 0.7 HR/9 in 2016.

Among the Nationals starting pitchers, he was third in strikeouts, second in wins and first in ERA. Max Scherzer led in both strikeouts and wins. At the end of the regular season, Roark finished as the No. 13 starting pitcher on the Player Rater, a few points behind Noah Syndergaard.

Looking ahead to next season, I think Roark has a great chance to finish as a top-10 starting pitcher. Here are the 12 pitchers that finished ahead of him on the Rater, in order. Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, Madison Bumgarner, Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello, Kyle Hendricks, Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, Johnny Cueto, Jake Arrieta and Syndergaard.

Of these 12 pitchers, I see three that may not finish in the top 10 next season. They are Verlander, Hendricks and Lester. That leaves a spot open for Roark. While another starting pitcher may climb the ranks and take that spot, Roark pitched well enough this season to warrant that kind of projection.

The Nationals have the second-best pitching staff in their division. Roark is only 30 years old. He still have a few more good seasons in that arm. If you are able to draft him in the later rounds, you will have found yourself a real good pitcher. He will be drafted in the top 20 which, if using last year’s draft results, puts his ADP at round seven.

However, if you take my advice from earlier and draft pitchers before hitters, he may be gone before that.