Since the first day they arrived in town, the Washington Nationals promised that restocking the team's depleted farm system would be their top priority.
And since that first draft back in 2005, the team has been stocking their farm system with talented young pitchers. Then general manager Jim Bowden said that was the way to do it.
"You draft as many pitchers as you can find," Bowden said, "and then trade the excess for position players. Pitching prospects are always worth more."
And for the most part, it has worked. A member of the Nationals current starting rotation—John Lannan—arrived in that very first amateur draft six seasons ago.
But we have stopped watching for the quantity and are now transfixed on the quality, specifically 2009's first-round picks Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen. Because of them, Nationals' fans have stopped looking for the next John Lannan or Craig Stammen, players who were never heard of until they first donned Washington's "Curly W" cap.
But they are there. And though it's important that “can't miss” prospects succeed, it is far more fun when the late-rounders come out of nowhere and help solidify the team. Late-rounders like Daniel Rosenbaum.
Rosenbaum was drafted in the 22nd round of the 2009 MLB amateur draft, an afterthought pick if ever there was one. He had a good-enough career at Xavier University, but certainly he was nothing special. If he wasn't a left-hander, I doubt he would have even been drafted.
But as a 21-year-old, Rosenbaum dominated the Gulf Coast League that season. He started 11 games and crafted a fine record of 4-1, 1.95, allowing just 7.1 hits and 2.2 walks per nine-innings while striking out 9.2.
That said, Rosenbaum was pitching against 18-year-olds. The Nationals needed to wait until last season when, playing for Class-A Hagerstown, he would compete against players of similar age and experience.
Turns out he pitched even better.
In 101 innings, he had a record of 2-5, but with a tremendous 2.32 ERA and a 8.5/2.5/7.5 hit/walk/strikeout slash line. He was promoted to Class-A Potomac and pitched even better there, winning three games and fashioning a 2.09 ERA in 43 innings. His hits allowed dropped to 7.3 while his walks per nine-innings remained constant.
His two seasons in the Nationals system now add up to 33 starts, normal for a full season. In 181 innings, he’s allowed just 159 hits and 50 walks while striking out 153. Rosenbaum now has a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Over the course of 2010, he allowed hitters just a .251 batting average-against and just a .334 on-base percent.
To be sure, Rosenbaum wasn’t all that impressive playing for Xavier. His 5.28 ERA was mediocre, even for a mid-major baseball conference. His fastball topped out at 92 mph, and that was on a good day with the wind at his back.
It wasn’t that the major league teams hadn’t heard of him. They had. And each of them passed on him at least 21 times.
His fastball—at times—can reach 92 mph but usually is around 88 with “sneaky movement.” He gets good hitters to take ugly swings.
His fastball can sink or cut and his slider and change will one day be major league quality.
Said a scout last year, “His changeup is the equalizer. It will be his ‘out’ pitch without question.
Here's hoping that Daniel Rosenbaum joins John Lannan on that list of players who came out of nowhere to make a difference for the Washington Nationals.