On September 7th, 2007, Ross Detwiler found himself in a very good place. Only a few months after being drafted 6th overall by the Washington Nationals he was on the mound in Atlanta pitching an inning of relief against the Braves. He retired the side.
Yet one year later Detwiler couldn't pitch himself out of Single-A Potomac. 'Why am I still here?' he must have asked himself. Perhaps that was the reason why...
The 6 foot 5, 22 year old left-hander hadn't always been at the top of his class. He went undrafted in high school and signed with Missouri State, not exactly the most prestigious of baseball schools in the land. It was here however where Detwiler said he learned how to pitch. His large frame after maturation translated into a mid 90's fastball and a very effective power curve.
Detwiler began to stand out in the Missouri Valley Conference and earned himself a spot on Falmouth in the famous Cape Cod Summer League. In four starts there he compiled a 1.74 ERA while striking out 14 with only three walks against the nations best amateur competition. in 2007 as a Junior he shined for Missouri State shutting down opposing hitters to a .198 batting average and posting an ERA of 2.22.
The transition into professional ball appeared seamless for the potential filled starter. He posted a 3.54 ERA on his way to his call up with 55 strikeouts in 66 innings. Despite extending his season longer than it had ever gone before, Detwiler continued to retire better and better hitters.
Then how come he couldn't get out of Potomac in what should have been a routine stop en route to joining the Nationals rotation half way through 2008? The truth is neither coaches nor Detwiler himself knew what was going on. All anybody knew was that in a complete season for the PNATS he had compiled a 4.22 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, and a lower than expected strikeout rate.
The only problem that the coaches of the PNATS could single out was the lack of a developed third pitch. Detwiler came into the system with a change-up that he threw in college but he had struggled to throw it consistently for a strike against higher level hitters. This had caused hitters to key in on his fastball as the change posed no real threat. As Detwilers change up improved through the summer, his numbers got a little better.
Yet with Detwilers on the mound struggles he is still considered by many as not only one of the Nats top 10 prospects but a potential future ace if he puts it together. Prospectus said that when he is on he looks absolutely dominant and has more potential than Jordan Zimmerman, but BP also warned that at times in 2008 he looked completely lost.
So for the Nationals 2009 will likley be a major make or break year for Detwiler's path to the majors. At only 22 years old he does have time to figure it out, but the Nationals rotation is completely depleted and the team needs starters. If the kid can put it together he could be atop the Nats rotation in two or three years, if not it wont be pretty.