Nats Stock Watch: Harper's homer barrage highlights the week


Nats Stock Watch: Harper's homer barrage highlights the week

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 5-2

Team slash: .246/.310/.483

Team ERA: 1.72

Runs per game:  5.14


Bryce Harper, RF:  .360 AVG, 5 HR, 15 RBI, 1.339 OPS

Is it possible that the reigning NL MVP might have an even better season than the one he had in 2015? It's scary to consider, but not unreasonable given his torrid start. His 100th career home run — which, in typical Harper fashion was a scoreboard-breaking grand slam — ignited a long ball barrage, as he has gone deep five of the last six games. After his monster week, he now leads the majors in slugging, OPS and RBIs. And oh, he has more home runs (7) than strikeouts (6). Not too shabby. How much longer does he have to keep this up before he's unequivocally considered (if he isn't already) the best player in the game?

Daniel Murphy, 2B: .360 AVG, 4 XBH, .967 OPS

While Harper seems to lead the world in every statistical category, don't forget about Murphy, who keeps adding to his great first month with the Nats. Perhaps the 31-year-old second baseman will eventually regress to his career norms, but you wonder if his tweaked approach at the plate from last postseason could sustain for an entire year. Dusty Baker recently said that Murphy has learned to keep his hands in more often and focus on pulling the ball rather than trying to hit it to the opposite field, which he had done for most of his career. Because of that, what you're seeing is more of a power stroke from him on inside pitches. Who knows if Murphy will be able to maintain this, but if he does, the Nats may have gotten one of the best bargains in the offseason. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 2-0, 2 ER, 17 K

With Strasburg on the last year of his contract, could this finally be the season he puts it all together and deliver wire-to-wire dominance? It's too soon to answer that, but so far, so good for the 27-year-old right hander. Strasburg had an excellent week despite not being at full strength, and is 3-0 for the first time in his big league career. He went 7 2/3 innings of two-run ball  vs. the Braves while recovering from flu-like symptoms, and then followed that up with eight shutout frames on the road vs. the Marlins Tuesday night. He's using his usual formula of a mid-90s fastball to go along with a changeup, but has added a cutter (or slider, depending on who you ask) to keep hitters off balance. As a result, he's only allowed one extra-base hit in three starts. 


Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 0-1, BS, 2 ER

Though it wasn't always pretty in his first few opportunities, Papelbon's season had been going relatively swimmingly through the first couple of weeks. He was a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances, though he did put base runners on in three of those outings. But his luck ran out Sunday vs. the Phillies as he allowed the tying and winning runs to score in the 10th inning, which came immediately after a Harper solo shot put the Nats up 2-1 in the top of the frame. 

Needless to say, the Nats can't afford to have Papelbon struggling, especially considering that the rest of the bullpen arms are trying to find their respective niches. He's only blown one save so far, but has now allowed runners in four of his first six appearances. So it'll probably take a few clean ninth innings before fans will be a little less anxious whenever he is called upon. 

[MORE: Strasburg dominates as Harper, Nats homer past Marlins]

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Caps prospect watch: Signing season?


Caps prospect watch: Signing season?

The 2018 NCAA Hockey Tournament bracket has been announced and only one Capitals prospect, Brian Pinho, is still in the running.

Providence College was selected as the No. 2 seed in the East Regional and will play No. 3 Clarkson in the first round on Friday, March 23 on ESPNU. The winner will play the winner of Notre Dame-Michigan Tech on Saturday with a chance to advance to the Frozen Four.

The college season is over for the rest of the Capitals' college prospects which begs the question, will any of them sign an entry-level deal with Washington?

In the spring when seasons end for colleges, junior leagues and European leagues, we see a flurry of signings across the NHL as teams sign their prospects and young free agents.

Among the Caps' college prospects, the most likely candidate to sign would be Shane Gersich. Gersich just wrapped up this third season at the University of North Dakota, finishing second on the team in goals (13) and tied for third in points (29). The Capitals will certainly make a push to sign him considering his talent and because if he returns to college for a fourth year, he stands to become a free agent on Aug. 15, 2019.

Brad Elliott Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald reported Wednesday that North Dakota was still awaiting Gersich's decision on whether he planned to return to college.

Quinnipiac defenseman Chase Priskie is in a similar situation, but it he has decided to head back to school for another season.

“That wasn’t a season I’d want to leave on,” Priskie told the New Haven Register. “When I came here as a freshman I saw our senior class, Garteig, St. Denis, Soren Jonzzon, and they left such a legacy that guys still talk about them. Same for Sam Anas and Devon Toews. They were all such great players and some of the best people for our program. When I leave, I want to be talked about like they are.”


Other prospect notes:

  • For Pinho, now a senior at Providence, this marks an opportunity for him to finish his college career the same way he began, with a national championship. “I don’t think I realized at the time how hard it is just to get back to the tournament,” Pinho told the New Haven Register. “So that’s something we older guys have been telling the younger guys. You never know when you’re going to be back and you have to make the most of it when you’re there.” (You can read the full feature on Pinho here)
  • The end of the season may suddenly be near for goalie prospect Ilya Samsonov. Metallurg Magnitogorsk finds itself down 3-1 in its series with Ak Bars in the KHL playoffs meaning their season could be over as early as Friday. Of course, the big news to watch after that is whether or not Samsonov would come to North America. If he does, he would most likely go to Hershey to play for the Bears. With only 10 games remaining on Hershey's schedule, however, the sooner Samsonov's team is ousted from the playoffs, the better. At least from a Washington perspective.
  • All three of Washington's WHL prospects have reached the WHL playoffs. Moose Jaw (Dmitriy Zaitsev) finished with the best record in the league and will play Prince Albert in the first round. Swift Current (Beck Malenstyn) finished second in the East Division behind Moose Jaw and will play Regina. Everett (Garrett Pilon) won the U.S. Division and earned the top seed in the Western Conference. They will play Seattle in the first round.
  • Dmitriy Zaitsev remains out after taking an illegal hit last week. He did not play in either of Moose Jaw's final regular season games, but was a full participant in practice on Wednesday.
  • Adam Carlson has found his groove in Kansas City. Playing for the Mavericks of the ECHL, he won each of his two starts this past week allowing only one goal on 43 shots. He was named the 2nd star of the game for both games.
  • Madison Bowey recorded an assist on Friday and two more for Hershey on Saturday for three over the weekend in his first week back with the Bears. Bowey has spent the majority of the season with the Caps, but the additions of Michal Kempny and Jakub Jerabek at the trade deadline meant there were just too many bodies up in Washington and not enough playing time to go around. As Bowey is waiver exempt, he became the odd-man out and was sent to the AHL. It would not be surprising to see him recalled by Washington when the NHL playoffs begin.
  • Defenseman Jonas Siegenthaler brought his goal total up to five for the season with two goals against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins on Monday. The Bears really wanted to emphasize his offensive game this season to see if Siegenthaler could be developed into a two-way player. His strength is definitely is on the defensive end of the ice, but he will be a more versatile player if he can also be a threat offensively as well. You can see the highlights of Siegenthaler's two-goal game here:

  • Forward Hampus Gustafsson was recalled to Hershey last week and did not wait long to make an impact. He scored his first career AHL goal on Friday. He also added an assist making that game his first career multi-point game as well.
  • Tyler Lewington was suspended two games by the AHL for a punch he delivered to Bridgeport's Scott Eansor in Friday's game.

Who are the Caps' top 10 prospects? Find out here in this week's updated rankings 

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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