Intriguing Voth has thrust himself into mix for 2020 rotation spot

As our offseason coverage kicks into high gear, we’re going to review each significant player on the Nationals roster. We continue today with Austin Voth, who proved to be one of the club’s biggest surprises this season.

Voth-Delivers-Blue-Front-Sidebar.jpgPLAYER REVIEW: AUSTIN VOTH

Age on opening day 2020: 27

How acquired: Fifth-round pick, 2013 draft

MLB service time: 127 days

2019 salary: $556,000

Contract status: Under team control, could be arbitration-eligible in 2022, free agent in 2026

2019 stats: 2-1, 3.30 ERA, 9 G, 8 GS, 0 CG, 43 2/3 IP, 33 H, 16 R, 16 ER, 5 HR, 13 BB, 44 SO, 3 HBP, 1.053 WHIP, 140 ERA+, 3.79 FIP, 1.0 fWAR, 1.2 bWAR

2019 postseason stats: Was active for National League Division Series and Championship Series but did not appear.

Quotable: “I saw him in spring training this year, and I thought that he had matured a lot. He kept going all year. I know he had an injury, but he came back and he’s throwing the ball really well. What I like about him, he doesn’t get rattled and he keeps pumping strikes. He falls behind, he uses all the pitches and he knows how to get outs.” - Davey Martinez on Voth

2019 analysis: After a couple of fairly nondescript cups of coffee with the Nationals in 2018, Voth was easily dismissed heading into this season. He was, at best, eighth on the rotation depth chart, and he was only going to get an opportunity to pitch in the big leagues if several developments happened in unison. And then those developments happened, Voth got his opportunity and turned some heads in the process.

Summoned from Triple-A Fresno for an emergency June 23 start against the Braves, Voth immediately flashed a more impressive repertoire than he displayed the previous year. His fastball, which had been in the low 90s before, was in the mid 90s now and had some life to it. He held the potent Atlanta lineup to two runs over six innings and earned the right to keep pitching in the big leagues.

Voth would end up making eight starts (plus one relief appearance) and he allowed two or fewer runs in six of them. A bout of shoulder tendinitis did sideline him for nearly six weeks, but he finished strong and earned a spot in the postseason bullpen for the NLDS and NLCS. Despite suggestions he could slot in as a “bridge” arm from the rotation to the back of the ‘pen, Voth never did appear in a game this October.

2020 outlook: Voth certainly turned some heads this season, perhaps enough to warrant consideration for the No. 5 starter’s job coming out of spring training. His increased velocity, his ability to get swings and misses and his composure on the mound all make him an intriguing (and affordable) option for the Nationals.

The problem? Like Joe Ross, Voth will be out of options next year. He’ll need to make the big league roster or else pass through waivers before he can be sent to the minors. If they like what they see out of him in spring training, the Nationals will need to find a way to keep him. Perhaps that’s in the rotation. Or perhaps they’ll need to use a bullpen spot on him, using him as a long reliever who could step in and start if anyone goes down along the way.

Voth has pitched in only 13 big league games, but he’s already 27. And because he’s out of options, the clock is ticking. One way or another, the Nats will need to make a call on the right-hander in 2020. Either he figures into the long-term plan here, or else they’ll have to risk losing him to another franchise.

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