- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

It seems pretty easy to link John Lannan and Craig Stammen together.

They are both starting pitchers from northern towns and far from elite college programs. The Washington Nationals selected them back to back in the 2005 draft, Lannan in the 11th round and Stammen in the 12th.

“We were roommates even the first week we played pro ball,” Stammen said. “It just ended up that way that we lived with the same host family. Since then we’ve got along well enough and been able to stand each other living together, so we stayed as roommates. It is kind of funny that people group us together a lot, but we get along real well.”

There is another reason to connect the pair: They just might represent the two best chances for the Nationals to see any returns from that draft class beyond Ryan Zimmerman. After the team selected its current cornerstone with the fourth pick, Washington did not have a pick in the second or third rounds because of the signings of Cristian Guzman and Vinny Castilla.

Fourth-rounder Justin Maxwell and fifth-rounder Ryan DeLaughter were high-risk, high-reward outfielders who have lived up to the first half of that label so far. None of the players picked after Zimmerman has even reached Class AA, but Lannan and Stammen could soon change that.

Lannan is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound lefty from Long Beach, N.Y. Had he grown up in the other Long Beach, he might have been a more well-known commodity, but he spent his college days at Siena.

“I only got recruited by one team, two teams out of high school,,” Lannan said. “I got a small scholarship for baseball because I was still small. I was a risk, so nobody really looked at me.”

He started growing into his lanky body at Siena and by his junior season was dominating the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Lannan finished the season 10-2 with 83 strikeouts in 822/3 innings. One of those outings was a five-hit shutout in the MAAC tournament that impressed one particular person in attendance — Nationals scouting director Dana Brown.

As Lannan’s body filled out, he added velocity to his fastball. He can throw in the low 90s now to complement his quality change-up and a developing curveball. Lannan is 4-0 with a 2.56 ERA for Class A Potomac. He has 20 strikeouts and six walks in 312/3 innings.

“He is a big, crafty left-hander,” Stammen said. “He’s got a real loose arm, good change-up, pretty good curveball too, and he’ll mix that fastball in there inside and out. He’s going to get you, most of the time.”

Stammen grew up in Versailles, Ohio — a village of 2,500 near the Indiana border. He played his college baseball at Dayton, where he finished as the Flyers’ all-time leader in strikeouts.

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, the right-handed Stammen’s fastball velocity is similar to Lannan’s, but his best offering is his curveball, while his change-up still could use some extra work. He pitched well enough last season for Class A Savannah to earn a promotion to Potomac, which separated the two for a little more than a month. This season he is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in 251/3 innings.

“For me, being from a small town in a small area, it was the kind of atmosphere where you always had to work for everything,” Stammen said. “We’re kind of under that mentality where we are both underdogs because we didn’t get the big signing bonuses, so we have to work our way up and prove ourselves.”

Lannan has a unique perspective of Stammen, beyond being his roommate. He follows Stammen in the rotation, so the day before he pitches he is in charge of charting Stammen’s every move.

“He has a lively fastball and a great curveball — it is his best pitch,” Lannan said. “He also has a change-up, and he just mixes them really well. When he is on, he’s on. Over the last three years when he has had all of his stuff, he’s been basically unhittable.”

While Stammen beat his good friend to high Class A, Lannan could be the first to reach Class AA Harrisburg if he continues to excel. If either or both reach the parent club, it would make the thin Class of 2005 look a little deeper.

“They’ve got the stuff. … It is just what to do with it,” Potomac pitching coach Randy Tomlin said. “What I am trying to instill in their heads now is learning how to pitch. Learning what to throw, where to throw it, when to throw it and how hard to throw it. That is something we talk about a lot.”

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