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State of the Nats: Draft this week, bullpen issues, Scherzer's charity work

State of the Nats: Draft this week, bullpen issues, Scherzer's charity work

Team Record: 34-23

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MLB Draft is this week - It's an important event on the MLB calendar that always seems to sneak up on us. Or, at least it sneaks up on me during the middle of a busy Nationals season. That would be the MLB Draft, which this year begins on Thursday June 9 and runs through Saturday the 11th. 

MLB is the only major sport that holds their draft midseason and that presents some positives and negatives. For one, it gives fans the unique opportunity to see their team's draft picks in action in the NCAA Tournament in the weeks after they are picked. But, because it's a midseason event, the timing only allows for so much attention to be paid by fans and media alike. I've always wondered how big the MLB Draft would be coverage-wise if it were held in January, for example, instead of June.

Regardless of the timing, the MLB Draft is an underrated sporting event, as each team has a chance - or 40 of them - to find the next big star. The Nationals this year own the 28th and 29th overall picks thanks to the departures of Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in free agency. They later pick 58th, 94th and then a whole bunch of times after that. There will be dozens of new Nats prospects to evaluate and we'll be following along live as we always do with our annual draft tracker. 

Is reliever Nats' biggest need? - The Aug. 1 trade deadline is over seven weeks away, yet the rumors have already started. and the New York Post have linked the Nationals to Yankees relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, and at this point adding relief help seems to be a logical priority. The starting rotation is among the best in baseball and even if Gio Gonzalez continues to slip, they have Lucas Giolito waiting in the wings. The lineup has been relatively average despite their good health, but has the potential to be much better. Plus, Trea Turner is ready whenever they need him.

The bullpen, on the other hand, is starting to show noticeable cracks. Jonathan Papelbon has saved 15 games in 17 chances, but rarely pitches clean innings. And Felipe Rivero is starting to stumble with a team-high 5.19 ERA. Without those guys pitching well, the outlook is a whole lot different, even with Sammy Solis' recent surge.

There is plenty of time before the Nats have to make a decision on this, but it may be wise to start looking around the league at their options. As I wrote before this season, every year there are very good relievers to be had on the trade market. Losing teams and rebuilding clubs often see no use for late inning relievers, depending on what they can get for them. That's why you've seen guys like Chapman, Miller and Craig Kimbrel all traded within recent years. Tyler Clippard last year can be included in that mix. And so can Papelbon, whom the Phillies gave to the Nats for a low-level pitching prospect. 

Beyond Chapman and Miller, here are a few other names that fit that formula - good relievers on teams that aren't good - to watch...

RHP Jeanmar Gomez, Phillies - Gomez has a 2.79 ERA with 18 saves in 19 tries, but doesn't strike out a ton of batters and hits arbitration next winter.
RHP Alex Colome, Rays - Colome has been lights-out with a 1.08 ERA, 15 saves in 15 chances and 34 strikeouts in 25 innings. He's also under team control through 2021. Given that, however, it may take a big price to acquire a guy who is just now having a breakout year.
RHP Jake McGee, Rockies - McGee has a 2.31 ERA over the last three seasons (134 games) with 152 strikeouts in 128 2/3 innings. Also has 14 saves this season, but his velocity has dipped a few ticks from 96.3 in 2014 to 93.3 this year.
RHP Jeremy Jeffress, Brewers - Throws hard (95.5 avg. FB velocity) and has 15 saves in 16 games. Also not a big strikeout pitcher, though, and also new to the closer position.
RHP Brad Ziegler, Diamondbacks - A consistent reliever over the years with a 2.49 ERA in nine MLB seasons, Ziegler is off to an in consistent start, but the track record speaks for itself.
RHP Fernando Rodney, Padres - A two-time All-Star, Rodney is off to a terrific start this season with a 0.00 ERA and 11 saves in 21 total appearances. If teams can get past the fact he's 39, Rodney could be a big commodity come July.
RHP Ryan Madson, Athletics - A guy the Nats have coveted in the past, Madson now boasts a 2.66 ERA and 12 saves with the last-place A's. He's still got a rocket arm at the age of 35 and has 42 games of postseason experience and two World Series rings.

Scherzer's new charity venture - During the last homestand, Max Scherzer shared some details about his new charity venture involed with the Polaris Project designed to combat human trafficking. There are two programs he and his wife Erica are participating in. One asks fans to make donations for each of his strikeouts. The other, which he went into more detail about, involves autographs.

"Autographs and athletes, which is benefitting Polaris," Scherzer explained. "My wife is really helping it It's a chance for the fans to send in any of their items they want autographed that I'll personalize to them. All we ask is that you make a donation to Polaris and I'll match that donation. It's for human trafficking. My wife has really done a lot of work with them to try to make it the best organization possible and try to better it. What they promote is to eradicate modern day slavery."

More info can be found here.

NL East Standings

Offensive game of the week: Wilson Ramos 6/1 vs. Phillies - 3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI, R

Pitching line of the week: Max Scherzer 6/1 vs. Phillies - 8.0 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 11 SO, 2 BB, 111 pitches (78 strikes)

Quote of the Week 

"I asked him was he limpin' or pimpin'. He said he was pimpin'. I said that looked like a limp to me."

- Dusty Baker on Bryce Harper's right knee contusion.

Tweet (or Instagram) of the Week

Road Ahead

Mon. - OFF
Tue. - 8:10 p.m. at Chicago White Sox (Ross vs. Latos)
Wed. - 8:10 p.m. at Chicago White Sox (Scherzer vs. Shields)
Thu. - 8:10 p.m. at Chicago White Sox (Gonzalez vs. Rodon)
Fri. - 7:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Strasburg vs. Hellickson)
Sat. - 4:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Roark vs. Nola)
Sun. - 1:10 p.m. at Cincinnati Reds (Ross vs. Morgan)

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The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful


The sound of Bryce Harper's first spring training HR is beautiful

It's that wonderful time of year again — when baseball teams flock to warmer climates for spring training and the regular season is practically around the corner — and Bryce Harper is already killing it.

It took the Washington Nationals a few games to brush away their offseason cobwebs and get back into gear, but since the beginning of March, they're riding a five-game win streak as of Sunday the 4th.

They are 6-4-1 in spring training going into Monday's matchup against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Since Thursday, the Nats have taken down — in order — the Atlanta Braves, New York Mets, defending World Series champion Houston Astros, the Detroit Tigers and the Mets again. Sunday's 6-2 win against the Tigers was in large part thanks to Harper's bat, as the star of the team drilled his first home run of spring training. 


Turn up the volume for this one because the sound of Harper's contact with the ball is just beautiful — and perhaps enough to get you pumped for the March 29 opener.

Harper blew this ball away in the bottom of the third for a two-run homer with Howie Kendrick on base. He also had a single in the fourth and finished the game with three RBI.

Gio Gonzalez was the winning pitcher for the Nats. 


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Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches


Per usual, Max Scherzer strikes out Tim Tebow on three pitches

We are fortunate enough to live in a world where we can watch a former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback (attempt to) hit against a three-time Cy Young pitcher in a Major League Baseball preseason game.

Max Scherzer took less than a minute to strike out Tim Tebow, who was batting cleanup for the Mets in a spring training game Friday. You can watch the whole at-bat here:

It looks like Tebow and Scherzer are starting to develop a pattern - last year’s matchup between the two went down the exact same way.

Tebow was able to redeem himself later in the game with his first hit of the year against Nats prospect Erick Fedde. He will likely begin the season with the Double-A Binghamton Rumble Ponies, but Mets GM Sandy Alderson said he believes Tebow will eventually see some at-bats in the Majors.