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Nationals Stock Watch: Other hot bats besides Harper

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Nationals Stock Watch: Other hot bats besides Harper

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

Record: 5-1

Team slash: .286/.363/.468

Team ERA: 3.75

Runs per game: 6.3

STOCK UP    

Bryce Harper, RF:  .500 AVG/ 3 HR/ 1.751 OPS

As Mark Zuckerman stated out recently, at what point is this no longer a hot streak and just what Harper is as a hitter? With the way he's going, it looks like he's about to set up permanent residence in this spot for years to come. It seems like we've thrown out about as many superlatives as we could to describe his last few weeks, and yet he continues to put up these gaudy numbers. At about a quarter through the season, Harper is on pace to finish with 59 home runs and notch 150 RBI. Obviously, those totals aren't things Nationals fans should reasonably expect come season's end. But given how locked in he is right now, who knows what his numbers will look like in a few months?

Ian Desmond, SS:  .346 AVG/ 2 HR/ 5 RBI

Yes, there are other hot hitters in the Nats' lineup besides Bryce Harper. Desmond is currently riding a six-game hit streak, and is clearly enjoying batting second in the order. On the season, he has a slash line of .316/.373/.513 with three homers hitting in the two-hole. Whether it's his comfort level with being near the top of the lineup, the protection behind him or something else entirely, for whatever reason he's thriving in that spot much more so than when manager Matt Williams had him hitting sixth or seventh. 

Denard Span, CF: .391 AVG/ 3 RBI/ .435 SLG 

He's been hitting well for a while now, so forgive Span's absence on this list in recent weeks. Regardless, the Nats' leadoff man has clearly shaken off the rust a month after coming off the disabled list and is just about back to his 2014 form. He's hit safely in nine straight games, and has posted multi-hit efforts in seven of them. If there was one thing to be nitpicky about, it's that he's only swiped three bases thus far this year. But with the way the guys behind him are mashing, it's not like the Nats offense needs to play small ball to win games these days. 

Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 2-0/ 1.38 ERA/ 13.0 IP

Outside of a tough first inning Wednesday night, Zimmermann has now turned in two straight quality starts, raising his record to 4-2 and lowering his ERA to 3.52. It may not seem like he's throwing as well as he used to, but the Nats have now won five straight games in which he's pitched. Going through his nine starts this year, he's only had one truly bad outing, when he surrendered eight runs in 2 1/3 innings against he Red Sox at Fenway Park in early April. Other than that, he's pitched at least six innings in every start this year and hasn't surrendered more than three earned runs. 

STOCK DOWN 

Doug Fister, SP: 0-1/ 2.0 IP/ 31.50 ERA

Fister just hasn't been himself thus far this season. His sinker hasn't worked as consistently as it did in 2014, and he isn't getting the amount of ground ball outs like he used to. As a result, he's leaving fastballs (most of which top out under 90 mph) elevated in the zone and hitters have been feasting on those mistakes. However, it turns out his struggles may have been health related, as he was placed on the 15-day disabled list late last week because of forearm tightness. Whenever he comes back, the Nats will need him to rediscover the formula that made him the club's most consistent starter last year. 

[RELATED: Harper and Williams ejected again, Nats rally again]

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May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

May the odds be ever in your favor: Vegas sets over/unders for 2018 MLB season

The start of spring training is a glimmer of hope during the cold of winter. It means warm weather, cold beers and hot dogs at the ballpark are coming your way.

It's our first chance to get a taste of how our favorite team is shaping up for the 2018 season, and for those who are not quite into just the game itself, betting odds.

CG Technology, a Las Vegas sportsbook operator, has set the 2018 odds for each MLB team.

Specifically, how are things looking for the local teams?

RELATED: 2018 SPRING TRAINING REPORT DATES

Washington Nationals: 91 1/2 wins

The 2018 season is looked at by many as the last World Series run for some time for the Nationals and their core group of players. Bryce Harper, Daniel Murphy and Gio Gonzalez will become free agents after the 2018 season in addition to general manager and President of Baseball Operations, Mike Rizzo.

In 2017, the team won 97 games and went on to win the NL East, but couldn't make it past the first-round of the National League Division Series. In 2018, Vegas is giving the Nats 7/2 odds of taking the National League title. They are just behind the Chicago Cubs, who knocked them out of contention last season, at 4/1 odds.

As far as winning the World Series, Vegas is giving the guys an 8/1 chance of their first title, tied with the Cubs.

Baltimore Orioles: 77 1/2 wins

The O's finished the 2017 season with 75 wins, which could be considered somewhat of an accomplishment considering their pitching resources.

The same problem will occur in 2018 as the organization hasn't signed any new starting pitchers. Vegas is giving them 50/1 odds of taking the American League title and 100/1 odds of winning the World Series.

The lack of depth in their rotation will come back to bite them as division rival New York Yankees have 5/1 odds of winning the World Series and the Red Sox have 10/1 odds.

A below average season should be expected.

A few other standouts, good and bad, include the Miami Marlins at 500/1 odds of winning the World Series, the Kansas City Royals at 200/1 and current champions, the Houston Astros, at 6/1 odds.

RELATED: FORMER NATS PITCHER ARRESTED WITH MORE THAN 40 POUNDS OF SUSPECTED COCAINE

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

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Former Nationals pitcher Esteban Loaiza arrested with more than 40 pounds of suspected cocaine

SAN DIEGO — Former All-Star pitcher Esteban Loaiza has been arrested on suspicion of trafficking drugs after packages containing a white powder believed to be cocaine were found at a home he rented in Southern California, officials said Monday.

The 46-year-old former Major League Baseball player was booked Friday on charges involving the possession, transport and sale of 20 kilograms (44 pounds) of suspected cocaine worth an estimated $500,000, according to the San Diego Sheriff's Department.

Loaiza played for numerous teams between 1995 and 2008, starting with the Pittsburgh Pirates and concluding with his second stint with the Chicago White Sox. He had a 21-9 record with the Chicago White Sox in 2003 and started in the All-Star Game that year.

RELATED: NATS REVEAL 2018 SPRING TRAINING TV SCHEDULE

He also played one season for the Washington Nationals in 2005 — the team's inaugural season in D.C. after the franchise changed from the Montreal Expos. During his one season in Washington, Loaiza finished with a 12-10 record adn a 3.77 ERA over 34 games played that year.

It was not immediately known if Loaiza had hired a lawyer and the former player could not be reached to comment. He was being held Monday for lack of $200,000 bail pending a court appearance on Wednesday.

Loaiza's agent, John Boggs, told the San Francisco Chronicle that he had no information about the arrest and that he has not spoken to Loaiza recently. He said that Loaiza had called his office early last week but Boggs was unavailable at the time.

"I am shocked and saddened by the news and had no indication he would ever be in this type of situation," Boggs said in a text to the newspaper. "I don't know how he would get himself involved in this, so it's difficult to even comment on it."

Officers stopped Loaiza for a minor traffic infraction Friday after he left the home he started renting recently in the Pacific coast community of Imperial Beach, along the U.S.-Mexico border. Authorities had the vehicle under surveillance on suspicion it was used for smuggling drugs.

When they searched the vehicle, they found a sophisticated compartment used to conceal contraband, authorities said. That led them to obtain a search warrant for Loaiza's rental home, where they found the packages of drugs, according to investigators.

The packages containing a white powder are still being tested but are believed to be cocaine, said San Diego Sheriff's Lt. Jason Vickery.

Loaiza was born in Tijuana, Mexico and was married for two years to the late Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera. She filed for divorce shortly before she died in a plane crash in 2012.

The 43-year-old Rivera was known as the "Diva de la Banda" and died as her career was peaking. She was perhaps the most successful female singer in grupero, a male-dominated Mexico regional style, sold more than 15 million records, and moved into acting and reality television.

Loaiza sued the aircraft's owners in 2014 for wrongful death but her relatives accused him of trying to profit from her death. He denied the accusations and later retracted his lawsuit.

NBC Sports Washington contributed to this report.

RELATED: WHEN PITCHERS, CATCHERS REPORT FOR SPRING TRAINING