After a week full of speculation, the Washington Nationals have finally announced that right-handed pitching prospect Taylor Jordan will be promoted from Double-A Harrisburg to serve as their starting pitcher Saturday against the New York Mets. After Friday night’s comeback victory, the Nationals optioned first baseman Chris Marrero to Triple-A Syracuse to make room on the active roster for the 24-year-old starting pitcher.
Jordan, Washington’s 9th round selection in the 2009 MLB Draft from Brevard Community College, moved relatively slowly through the lower minor leagues before an impressive season at Low-A Hagerstown in 2011, throwing 94.1 innings with a 2.48 ERA and 63 strikeouts before having to undergo Tommy John surgery that summer. Jordan spent most of 2012 recovering from surgery, but did return later in the summer to pitch 54.1 innings mostly at Hagerstown with only mediocre results.
However, in his second season apart from surgery, Jordan has blossomed into one of the Nationals top prospects, posting a 1.24 ERA in 36.1 innings at High-A Potomac this spring before forcing a promotion to Double-A. Jordan has not slowed down since arriving in Harrisburg, providing the Senators with a 7-0 record with a 0.83 ERA and 43 strikeouts over 54 dominating innings, which when combined with Dan Haren’s injury, forced the Nationals to give him a promotion to the major leagues.
Taylor Jordan attacks hitters with a solid three-pitch arsenal including a 90-95mph fastball with heavy sink and movement, a sharp, late-breaking slider that generates swings-and-misses, and an inconsistent but promising changeup. In addition Jordan is blessed with an impressive, athletic pitcher’s build as he is listed at 6-3 190lbs. and his repeatable delivery allows him to control the strike zone well, as evidenced by his career 2.07 BB/9 ratio. Because he does not have plus velocity or devastating off-speed pitches, scouts project Jordan as more of a #4 starter in the major leagues; that said, his solid arsenal, feel for pitching, and ability to limit walks give him a good chance to develop into a productive starting pitcher if he stays healthy.
In his first full season after Tommy John surgery, the Nationals are expected to cap Jordan’s innings this season as they have with their other young pitchers; Jordan pitched a total of 54.1 innings in 2012, which means he is likely to be shut down around 155-165 innings pitched this season. Currently standing at 90.1 innings pitched in 2013, Jordan probably has 9-12 additional starts before his season is over, which should take him through about Labor Day.
Saturday’s start should be viewed as an audition, as the Nationals will need a 5th starter two or three more times before Haren is able to return from the disabled list next month. If he pitches poorly this could be a spot start and he could be back in Harrisburg next week. Conversely, if Jordan’s success can continue and he pitches well, he could potentially find himself as part of the pitching staff until he reaches his innings shutdown. While he may not have the ceiling of a Stephen Strasburg or Jordan Zimmermann, Jordan is a talented pitcher who should be part of the Nationals’ pitching staff in the future, and will be a much discussed name by other teams in trade talks as the trade deadline approaches. Jordan is a testament to the excellent Nationals scouting and development staff as they have nurtured a 9th round pick through arm surgery and into a legitimate major league pitcher.