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Stock Watch: Tough week at the plate for Harper as report surfaces about lingering injury

Stock Watch: Tough week at the plate for Harper as report surfaces about lingering injury

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

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .247/.293/.395

Team ERA: 4.25

Runs per game: 3.8

 

STOCK UP

Max Scherzer, SP: 2-0, 13.2 IP, 5 ER, 16 K

The Nats earned two wins in the past week, and not coincidently, both were in games Scherzer started. The NL Cy Young candidate was the stopper the Nats needed Wednesday night against the Marlins, pitching well enough (6 2/3 innings, three earned runs) to end a four-game skid.

The biggest key to Scherzer’s second half has been his ability to solve his home run problem. Before the All-Star break, he allowed 21 long balls in 19 starts. Since? He’s given up seven homers in 13 outings.

Trea Turner, CF: .360 AVG, 4 HR, 1.345 OPS

It might be time to stop saying that Turner has “sneaky pop.” These days, he just has plain old pop. The 23-year-old speedster continues to show that he’s much more than the prototypical leadoff man, launching four long balls over the past week. Since the All-Star break, he leads the Nats in runs (49), home runs (12), triples (7) and stolen bases (27). His breakout second half has undoubtedly made him one of the X-factors for the Nats come October.

MORE: NATIONALS DROP MAGIC NUMBER TO 2 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .105 AVG, 5 K, .333 OPS

Amidst another tough week at the plate, more speculation has emerged about the source of Harper’s season-long struggles. A Sports Illustrated report surfaced in recent days about the reigning NL MVP dealing with a lingering shoulder injury, a claim that has been repeatedly and vehemently denied by the team.

Regardless of the causes, Harper’s funk has been difficult to explain. Sure, he's not having a career-worst campaign — he’s still amassed 24 homers and 82 RBI— but he’s struggling in situations where he previously excelled. For example, he hammered fastballs last season, especially on the inner third of the strike zone. In 2015, Harper hit .421 on middle-in heaters and .333 when they were up and in, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Against those pitches this year, he’s hitting .190 and .000, respectively. Is that solely because of injury? Pitchers making adjustments? Another reason entirely? It’s hard to say, but the Nats have to hope Harper can snap out of it before the postseason starts.

Gio Gonzalez, SP: 0-1, 4.1 IP, 6 ER

In two out of his last three outings, Gonzalez has yielded six earned runs and failed to get through the fifth inning. Given the state of the rotation sans Stephen Strasburg, that’s the last thing the Nats want to see right now as the playoffs draw nearer. But is there a better option at the moment? Joe Ross is still being stretched out to handle the workload of a full start. So if he’s not ready, the Nats may have to tap their veteran left hander to fill in as the third rotation arm. 

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It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

It's Day 1 of spring training and Bryce Harper is already done taking questions regarding his future

So if you have not heard, Bryce Harper is going to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the 2018 season.

All off-season talking heads, baseball aficionados, radio hosts, etc. were speculating on where the outfielder’s destination will be next year.

And we are still a year away from it actually happening.

RELATED: VEGAS SETS OVER/UNDERS FOR 2018 MLB SEASON

Reporting to spring training on Monday, Harper did not waste any time telling the media how his press conferences were going to play out this season.

“If guys do [ask], or talk anything about that, I will be walking right out the door.”

Entering his seventh season with the Washington Nationals, the 25-year-old is coming off the second-best season, statistically, of his career. The 2015 NL MVP has hit .285 in his career, with 150 home runs and 421 RBIs. Unquestionably he is the face of the Nationals’ organization, if not, the best player in the team’s history.

If he does end the season without a contract extension, he will join Rafael Palmeiro, Alex Rodriguez, Randy Johnson, and Barry Bonds as the top sought out free agents in MLB history.

One thing is for certain in terms of Harper’s free agency; Harper has given no inclination on where his landing spot will be.  The top three cities are of course his favorite childhood team, the New York Yankees; joining with one of his closest friends with the Chicago Cubs; or just staying with Washington.

Wherever he does land, it does appear that it will be the largest contract given to a free agent ever.

As for now we just wait and direct any of your calls to his agent Scott Boras.

READ ALSO: NATIONALS FULL SPRING TRAINING SCHEDULE

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Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

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USA Today Sports Images

Nationals Spring Training Schedule 2018

Now that pitchers and catchers have reported, the next step in our long journey to Opening Day is the spring training games themselves. Not every game is televised, so get ready to follow along with your favorite beat writer's Twitter account for all your updates.

Even without getting to watch the games, it'll still be exciting to once again check box scores in the morning to see if Bryce Harper homered again, or if Max Scherzer is perfect through 4 innings (spoiler: both of these will happen).

This year's spring training will be especially interesting, considering how many big-name players will be signing contracts in the next few weeks. The Nats are always willing to make a big splash, and even beyond the available free agents, have been linked to impact players like J.T. Realmuto in trade rumors.

Typically, the excitement of adding a new piece to the roster has to be reignited after a long winter off, but this season, those additions will be happening while camp is already underway.

It's going to be a hectic few weeks as teams prepare for their seasons, so bookmark this page to check on the Nationals spring training schedule over the next few weeks as the team finally takes the field in 2018.

Nationals 2018 Spring Training Schedule

Friday, Feb. 23 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Saturday, Feb. 24 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Feb. 25 - Braves at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Feb. 26 - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Feb. 27 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Feb. 28 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 1 (SS) - Nationals at Braves, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 2 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Saturday, Mar. 3 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Tigers at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 4 (SS) - Nationals at Mets, 1:10 pm
Monday, Mar. 5 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 6 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Wednesday, Mar. 7 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Thursday, Mar. 8 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 10 - Nationals at Astros, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 11 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Monday, Mar. 12 - Nationals at Tigers, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 13 (SS) - Mets at Nationals, 7:05 pm (MLBN) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 15 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Friday, Mar. 16 (SS) - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MASN)
Saturday, Mar. 17 - Mets at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 18 - Nationals at Cardinals, 1:05 pm
Monday, Mar. 19 - Nationals at Marlins, 1:05 pm
Tuesday, Mar. 20 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Wednesday, Mar. 21 - Astros at Nationals, 1:05 pm (ESPN2) (MASN)
Thursday, Mar. 22 - Nationals at Mets, 6:10 pm
Friday, Mar. 23 (SS) - Astros at Nationals, 6:05 pm (MASN)
Friday, Mar. 23 - Nationals at Marlins, 7:05 pm
Saturday, Mar. 24 - Marlins at Nationals, 1:05 pm
Sunday, Mar. 25 - Cardinals at Nationals, 1:05 pm (MLBN)
Tuesday, Mar. 27 (at Nationals Park) - Twins at Nationals, 4:05 pm