Tuesday, June 22, 2010

AA vs. AAA

John Lannan finally received his exile from the Nationals starting rotation. While most deposed pitchers are relegated to AAA, Mike Rizzo chose an alternate path, sending Lannan back to AA Harrisburg.

Usually, when veteran players want to make a rehab assignment, they are sent to the nearest affiliate, often a A or AA club. This seems to be what the Nats are doing with Lannan. A demotion to AAA would have signaled that they didn't think he could get it done. The trip to AA states that they know he can get it done, now go back to the basics and prove it. The lack of premium talent in the Eastern League should help him rebuild his confidence. Right now, he is nibbling too much, falling behind, then chunking an 86 mph 3-1 fastball down the middle. Whether or not there is an underlying injury is aside from the simple fact that John Lannan does not strikeout enough batters to be a great pitcher. He can pitch well, hit spots, and funnel right-handed hitters straight to Zimmerman and Desmond for easy outs. His skill set isn't better than Craig Stammen; in truth, Stammen's ability to not walk batters may provide more upside.

Hopefully this is a short stint in Harrisburg. That would mean the elbow is sound and he has rediscovered the sink to his fastball. In the meantime, he gets to rehab with Ross Detwiler, consult with former coach Randy Tomlin, and work with another soft-tossing lefty trying to find his way back, Chuck James.

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