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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 3

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 3

The 2018 Major League Baseball season is well underway at this point, and with it comes another year of fantasy baseball.

The time and effort required to succeed in fantasy baseball dwarfs the commitment necessary to win your fantasy football league, so to help you out, every week we'll be making your lineup decisions a little easier.

These tips will have a Nationals slant, offering some players in D.C. to avoid, and some you definitely want to play in any given week. We’ll also suggest some players around the league you should have interest in.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 3 (4/16-4/22)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

As well as the Mets have played this season (and yes, they’ve been superb), they’ve still struggled against left-handed pitching, scoring just 11 runs in 13 games vs southpaws. 

Gonzalez has a 2.20 ERA this season, and facing a team with a collective .210 batting average against lefties, he should be a nice sleeper this week.

One Nationals position player to start: Wilmer Difo, 2B/SS/3B 

With Daniel Murphy on the Disabled List and Anthony Rendon nursing a toe injury, Difo will have plenty of opportunities to play this week. He’s barely owned (1% of Yahoo! leagues), but he’s 5-for-14 since April 10th, and is hitting an a talented lineup.

You won’t want to start him most weeks, but he could be a sneak-good value for the next few days, if you have the flexibility to pick him up.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Stephen Strasburg

Let’s be honest; you’re not sitting Strasburg. He’s probably your best pitcher (maybe second-best at worst), and he’s been great to start the season. Plus, the Dodgers play in a notorious pitcher’s park.

Still, if there was ever a matchup in which you’d even fathom sitting a guy like Strasburg, it’s when the pitcher for the other team is Clayton Kershaw. It’s always an uphill battle going up against the best pitcher of his generation.

One Nationals player to sit: Michael A. Taylor, OF

The combination of his excellent defense and Adam Eaton’s injury gives Taylor a high floor for playing time this week, and it’s easy to get tempted by his 4 stolen bases.

Still, Taylor is someone to avoid. As much as he helps on the basepaths, he’ll hurt in batting average, as he’s still at just .167 on the season, with next to zero power to go with it.

RELATED: 2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

A.J. Cole, but even with the two starts, you probably want to avoid him in anything but the deepest leagues. Cole will be facing the white-hot Mets while going up against the talented Jacob deGrom, and then will battle maybe the best team in the National League on the road when the Nats take on the Dodgers.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

Blake Snell, who’s coming off a terrific start against the White Sox where he struck out 10 batters in 6.0 innings. Snell is supremely talented, and has been great this season in 2 of his 3 starts (we’ll forgive him for struggling at Yankee Stadium). Start Snell this week and thank us later.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Trey Mancini, 1B/OF (Orioles) 

A lot of people have overlooked Mancini in his young career. He didn’t enter the majors with high prospect pedigree or an overwhelming skill, but he showed excellent power last season, and this year has turned into a quality contact hitter since settling in atop the Orioles lineup.

He’s 9-for-23 since April 9th, and while he has just one home run so far this season, he’ll end up with around 20-25 dingers on the season. Plus, dual-eligibility is always a nice bonus. He’s available in over 30% of Yahoo! Leagues, so check to make sure he’s not owned in your league.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Manuel Margot, OF (Padres) 

This is dependent on your league settings, as Margot is currently on the Disabled List. If you’ve got room to keep him in a DL slot without taking away a roster position, then feel free to hold onto him. But, if you need to drop him to take a flier on a talented pitcher or upcoming prospect, don’t hesitate.

The popular sleeper choice in drafts this spring started off slowly before hitting the 10-day DL, and playing half his games at Petco Park is never going to help. Margot is talented, but he’s still inexperienced, and sometimes it pays to be proactive in moving on from busts early.

RELATED: AROUND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

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Williamson homers again, Giants top Nationals 4-3

SAN FRANCISCO -- Mac Williamson had to dust himself off after crashing into a low padded wall near the stands in left field while chasing a foul ball.

More frustrated than hurt, Williamson took it out on Nationals pitcher Tanner Roark a few moments later after undergoing a series of concussion tests in the dugout.

Williamson homered for the second straight night and third in five games, hitting a tiebreaking shot in the sixth inning to lead San Francisco to a 4-3 victory over Washington on Tuesday night.

"I got pretty lucky," Williamson said. "I felt fine then and I feel fine now. I'm sure once the adrenalin wears off later tonight, tomorrow we'll see how the body feels. I'm sure I'll be a little sore."

Brandon Belt hit his fifth home run in six games, Joe Panik added three hits and scored twice, and the Giants won their third straight and fourth in the last five.

One night after hitting a 464-foot homer in the series opener, Williamson hit a first-pitch solo shot to center off Roark with two outs in the sixth inning that bounced off the top of the wall and broke a 3-all tie. It wasn't as far as Monday's clout -- this one went 423 feet -- but was just as pivotal for the Giants.

"We've talked about what a shot in the arm he's been and he's more than that," Giants manager Bruce Bochy said. "He came through again tonight. Good for him because he's worked hard at it."

Williamson's deciding home run came one inning after he stumbled over the bullpen mound in foul territory and crashed into a low wall near the stands while trying to chase down Bryce Harper's foul ball. Williamson stayed down briefly as team trainers rushed out before getting to his feet.

"I tried to roll my neck a little bit and my head down a little bit when I started going down," Williamson said. "I think that helped break my fall. I was just a little frustrated I didn't come up with the play. I had it in my glove and it came out."

Belt hit a two-run shot off Roark (1-2) in the third.

Michael Taylor had a three-run homer for Washington, which has lost four straight and 14 of 20 since opening the season 4-0.

"It seems like that sixth inning's been biting us in the rear as of late," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "We're swinging the bats. We just can't get the big hit with people on base."

Reyes Moronta (1-0) retired six batters for his first career win. Sam Dyson pitched one inning and Hunter Strickland worked the ninth for his fifth save.

The Giants got a run off Roark in the first but left the bases loaded when Evan Longoria struck out looking to end the inning. Belt homered on a 3-2 pitch from Roark in the second to make it 3-0.

Washington tied it on Taylor's three-run homer off starter Ty Blach in the third. Ryan Zimmerman walked and Moises Sierra singled before Taylor's deep drive into the right-field stands.

Roark went into the game 6-0 in seven career games against San Francisco but couldn't find a rhythm this time. He allowed four runs on six hits, walked two and hit a batter and threw a pair of wild pitches.

WHERE DID IT GO?

Panik hit a soft comebacker to Roark in the fifth that glanced off the pitcher's glove then bounced up on the top of his cap before falling to the turf. Roark initially couldn't locate the ball but found it in time to throw to first for the out.

AILING BLACH

Blach allowed three runs and four hits in five innings. After the game, Bochy said the left-hander suffered from food poisoning last week and was given an IV on Monday. "That was a really gutty effort that he gave us," Bochy said.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Nationals: Placed RHP Shawn Kelley on the 10-disabled list with ulnar nerve irritation in his right elbow. Infielder/outfielder Matt Reynolds was optioned to Triple-A Syracuse and outfielder Rafael Bautista and infielder Adrian Sanchez were called up.

UP NEXT

Nationals RHP Max Scherzer (4-1, 1.36 ERA) and Giants RHP Jeff Samardzija (1-0, 0.00) take to the mound for the series finale at AT&T Park on Wednesday. Samardzija is making his second start after beginning the season on the disabled list.

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Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great

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USA TODAY

Inside Baseball: The Nationals' bullpen is currently bad and potentially great

Welcome to Inside Baseball. Here, we're taking a quick peek at what's going on ... inside ... baseball. 

We're almost a month into the MLB season, and that sweet noise you hear is the sound of sample sizes starting to become reliable! So far, the Red Sox are very good except for the nights they're getting no-hit, Derek Jeter's Marlins and their .227 winning percentage "aren't accepting a losing culture," and Mike Trout is well on his way to another historically-great 3rd place finish in the MVP race. 

AT NATS PARK

As it stands today, the Nationals are sitting in 4th in the NL East. It's early, they haven't been healthy, etc. etc., whatever. It hasn't been great. Their pitching staff features the best rotation in baseball paired alongside one of the worst bullpens in baseball. No bullpen in baseball has a higher homerun/flyball percentage (18%) than the Nationals. Only two teams - the Rockies and the Royals - strand runners on base at a lower clip than the Nationals (64.0 LOB%). If you really want to get into the weeds, their Win Probabilty and Clutch numbers tell a grim story too. 

Don't smash that panic button yet, though (maybe just lightly rest your hand on it?). There are a few reasons to believe that maybe the bullpen isn't actually as bad as they've been the first month.  They're striking out hitters at an elite level so far - only the Brewers and the Yankees have better K/9 and K% numbers than the Nats.  If you take take a look back at which bullpens led the league in strikeout numbers over the last handful of years, you'll see a *lot* of playoff teams. In the three-true-outcome era, having a bullpen that gets swings-and-misses is inarguably valuable. The Nats have that. 

Taking a look at their individual numbers, it's clear there's an excellent backend hidden somewhere in the bullpen right now. Sammy Solis' ERA is almost four runs higher than his FIP (fielding-independent pitching), a clear sign that Solis has pitched well but been a victim of the Nats' shoddy defense. The same goes for Ryan Madson, whose ERA sits at almost seven despite an FIP under three. Assuming that bullpen roles become more established once the data catches up, the Nats' bullpen could look a lot better in a month or two. 

AROUND BASEBALL

What you should know: Manny Machado's half-season showcase is going swimmingly. He's slashing .360/.447/.708 with eight homers through the first month or so of games. He's posted a 208 wRC+, which is a fancy way of saying he's been 108 percent better than league average at the plate so far. He's been the most valuable hitter this season and the second-most valuable player overall. Meanwhile, the Orioles are 6-17 and already 12 games out of first place in the AL East. It hasn't even been a month yet. Is this the year the the MLB trade deadline is exciting?!

What you should watch: Angels @ Astros (4/24-4/25)

Shohei Ohtani is pitching on Tuesday night, so that's reason enough. But, if you need more, there's also Mike Trout, the defending World Series champs, and Justin Verlander pitching on Wednesday. It also happens to be a battle between the best two teams in the AL West, separated by half a game for first place. If there's such a thing as exciting April baseball, it looks like this. 

Player of the week: I know we already talked about him, but no one's been better than Manny Machado over the last seven days. He's hitting .500/.586/1.208 with five homers during that span. After being bit by historically bad luck during the first half of last season, Machado has been putting up monster numbers ever since:

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