It's no debate that the Washington Nationals have one of the best starting rotations in all of baseball. The pitchers consist of Scherzer, Strasburg, Corbin, Sanchez, and... a 5th Starter. Last year they tried out three different 5th starters, Joe Ross, Erick Fedde and Austin Voth.
With the Covid-19 outbreak, some players have opted out of the season. One of those players was Joe Ross. In my opinion, I saw Joe Ross as the 5th starter with Fedde in the bullpen before Ross opted out. Now that Ross will not be pitching this season, that leaves the door open for Fedde and Voth. Let's compare some stats and take a look at who might be in the starting rotation.
To me, Erick Fedde looks like the frontrunner to begin the season. Not only does he have starting experience, he's also come out of the bullpen. In 2017 and 2018 combined, he appeared in 14 games and started all of them. 2019 was when Davey Martinez, the Nationals' manager, started bringing Fedde out of the bullpen. In the 2019 season, Fedde appeared in 21 games and started 12 of them. Fedde now has experience as a 5th starter and a Long Reliever.
Fedde's ERA has gone down each season he has pitched. He had a 4.50 ERA in 2019 to go along with a 4-2 record. One thing I would really love to see is a reduction in his Home Runs. For every 9 innings he pitches, he allows 1.27 HR. He has 4 quality starts which is something you always want to see in a pitcher.
Fedde has more MLB service time than other candidates and will be eligible for arbitration after the season. The MLB active rosters for the first 2 weeks of the season will allow 30 players and after those 2 weeks, it will go down to 28. If Fedde doesn't get the starting job, look for him to be a member of the bullpen for the 1st month of the season.
Austin Voth was a 5th round pick back in 2013. He spent 5 seasons in the MiLB before he got called up in 2018. In 2018, Voth only appeared in 4 games but made the most of his opportunity. He started 2 of those games and came out of the bullpen in the other 2 of them.
2019 was when the Nationals used Voth as a starting pitcher full time. Again, he had to make the most of his opportunities as he appeared in 9 games. 8 of those were starts and that's really promising for a rookie pitcher. His season came to a shocking halt as he was put on the IL with Arm Soreness. He didn't see the Major Leagues again until September, and never got his 5th starter position back as Joe Ross was lights out.
In those few starts, Voth showed a lot of promise. He averaged 9.07 K/9, which is not far off from a top-notch starting pitcher. However, he does have some room for improvement as he gives up a lot of hits. Fortunately, Voth usually finds a way to get out of a jam.
No matter what, whoever gets 5th Starter, it will be well deserved. Both of these players can be future starters and long relievers out of the pen. Whoever doesn't get the starting job will most likely be in the bullpen. The Nationals' first game is July 23 and that's not far away. Which man gets the job?