Ross Detwiler was the #6 overall pick in 2007, one pick after Matt Wieters and eight picks before Jason Heyward. Number six isn't nearly as valuable as the #1 or even the #2 pick, but it's a premium draft pick; other #6 picks in recent years have included Zack Greinke, Rocco Baldelli, and Ricky Romero.
Moreover, a team like the Nationals needs high picks like this to contribute if they're ever going to turn things around. And Detwiler, considered the #2 college arm in that draft, simply hasn't delivered.
Detwiler was given probably more chances to start last season than he deserved, and he didn't do much with it. He finished 2009, his age 23 season, with a 5.00 ERA and poor 12.6% strikeout rate. He then lost most of this season to a torn hip flexor, which ruined what would have been a wide open shot at redemption.
But it looks like Detwiler, who has been pitching in the bullpen since he was recalled a couple weeks ago, will get another chance to start this Thursday against the Astros. The team is surely hoping that he can finally break through next year, giving them a cost-controlled power lefty in the back of the rotation. And if he does well against Houston, get ready for an entire off-season of hype about how Strasburg, Zimmermann, and Detwiler look to Stan a lot like a young (all together now) Smoltz, Avery, and Glavine.
But until Detwiler shows he can miss bats at the major league level, fans should remain skeptical. He's done fairly well this season while working his way back from surgery, posting a 2.27 ERA while pitching mostly at AA. He's produced solid groundball rates (51.4%) and strikeout rates (21.1%) in the minors, but now at age 24, he's not doing anything that makes you stop and think he's going to be anything special. It's a painful missed opportunity that, barring a major turnaround, will continue to dog the franchise for years.