Tanner Roark and Taylor Jordan will both open the season in the Nationals rotation. Doug Fister is sidelined with a lat injury, and could miss up to a month, according to MLB.com's William Ladson. That injury has allowed both Jordan and Roark to get an opportunity to prove they belong in the majors. The spring battle between the two players was intense, forcing the team to delay the decision as long as possible. Now that both will get a chance, which one will provide the most Fantasy value?
Both players put up impressive numbers in a relatively small amount of innings last year. Roark's 1.51 ERA definitely jumps out, but a good portion of it came out of the bullpen. Roark started just five games with the club, and while they were impressive, it's still a pretty small sample to judge a player.
The most concerning thing about Roark is his age. Roark didn't make his major-league debut until he was 26, which is older than most prospects. He toiled around the minors because he was never impressive enough to reach the majors sooner. It's not impossible that he is a late-bloomer, but his history doesn't suggest that he's a strong prospect.
The positive thing is that it's hard to argue with some of the numbers Roark posted in his limited sample. His strikeout rate generally carried over to the majors. And while it was slightly worse as a starter, Roark's 17.7 percent strikeout rate was still higher than Jordan's 13.2 percent figure. Roark has also shown strong command throughout the minors.
Jordan essentially falls into the same boat. He's younger than Roark, but didn't have a strong history as a prospect. Though he's slightly more proven in the rotation, Jordan started just nine games last year. Both players actually put up similar strikeout and walk rates in the minors, but Jordan had trouble translating his strikeouts to the majors.
In this instance, that's probably enough to make Roark the more desirable Fantasy asset. It's certainly possible Jordan is able to increase his strikeout rate, but he didn't show that ability last season. Either way, neither player has much value in mixed leagues. Both Scott White and Michael Hurcomb agree, ranking him higher than Jordan this year. Both have relatively low ceilings, and should see some decline after last year. Roark was thought to have the upper hand during the spring battle, so he's the more likely of the two to keep the job once Fister returns. Unless Jordan shows some new skills, Roark is the guy Fantasy owners want in NL-only leagues.