While the future of the Nationals' rotation remains up in the air - whether they will trade Jordan Zimmermann or Doug Fister before Opening Day - recognition of the group as a whole is starting to build as we inch closer to the 2015 season.
ESPN's Buster Olney released his list of the best rotations in Major League Baseball on Monday and at the top of the list is the Nationals' five. Olney cites their depth as a big factor in the ranking:
"Some evaluators believe the Dodgers should be No. 1, given the presence of Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the front of the rotation and some interesting investments at the back.
But the Nationals' depth is staggering. Four of the top 16 qualified NL pitchers in terms of ERA in 2014 were in the Washington rotation, and the one guy who wasn't, Gio Gonzalez, had a respectable 3.57 ERA. Washington's rotation ERA of 3.04 was the best in the majors last year, and the group held opposing hitters to a .657 OPS, also the best mark in the bigs."
Olney also calls Stephen Strasburg "underrated" now given the expectations that preceded him. He argues people have overlooked how good he has actually been while focusing on his short-comings.
Is Olney right in his assessment? The numbers sure seem to back it up. The Nats were also in a unique situation last September when it came time to decide their playoff rotation. Matt Williams had a tougher decision as to the 'odd-man out' than his coaching peers.
Between Zimmermann, Strasburg, Gonzalez, Fister and Roark, even picking their starter for Game 1 of the NLDS was a hot debate around baseball. With all the injuries their lineup has suffered in recent years - and especially in 2014 - pitching has been the backbone of their success.
Olney makes a good case here, but the real question is how long the Nats keep their rotation together.