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Fantasy Baseball: Hitter stock watch

Fantasy Baseball: Hitter stock watch

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Yasmani Grandal, C, Padres: He's finally all the way back from his oblique injury - Grandal has been hitting line drives all week - and he's a super plug-and-play this weekend, working at Coors Field for three games. Grandal already has three homers in 16 at-bats against the putrid Rockies pitching staff this summer, and he went deep twice during his first MLB start, which came late June in the thin air. Gravity always wins.
Josh Rutledge, SS, Rockies: A sore quad cost him a handful of starts this month, though Rutledge still gave us a homer and a steal as a regular pinch-hitter. He's finally back at shortstop, adding to a splashy 40-game debut (.350 average, seven homers, five steals). Don't worry if Troy Tulowitzki eventually returns to the fold - the Rockies want to see Rutledge at second base anyway, a position he played in the minors.

Trevor Plouffe, Utility, Twins: Thumb injuries are known for their ability to sap power, but Plouffe has finally gotten back to full health and he was locked in during the Seattle series, even if the results don't show it (3-for-13). See the forest for the trees here: Plouffe had a homer, four RBIs and three walks against the M's, and hit a couple of rockets right at defenders. Look for 4-6 homers in September, along with a useful four positions of eligibility in Yahoo! leagues.

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Mike Aviles, SS, Red Sox: He only started one game at short during the Anaheim series, in part because the Red Sox have turned their final quarter of the year into community auditions. And while the Boston lineup was a fun place to be for most of the summer, it's a ghost town now: no more Gonzalez, Ortiz, Youkilis or Crawford. This probably won't be a Top 10 offense the rest of the way, and Aviles won't be a full-timer besides.

Matt Joyce, OF, Rays: He's fallen into some bad habits during the second half of the year (.217.293.342, 32 strikeouts, just three homers), and now a forearm injury has crept into the picture. The Rays also know Joyce can't be exposed against too many left-handed starters - he has a puny .620 OPS against them. In mixed leagues, you need someone more reliable (and someone who plays more often).

Joaquin Arias, SS3B, Giants: Manager Bruce Bochy is going to ride the hot hand with Arias, but anytime you see a .429 average tied to a .450 on-base percentage, be skeptical. Arias is an ordinary journeyman with a .280.318.389 line over 202 MLB games (just four homers). He might be worth holding if you need a push in batting average, but otherwise there's nothing to see here.

Many Machado, SS3B, Orioles: The opening weekend against Kansas City was a blast, but since then Machado has gone 9-for-50 with 14 strikeouts (and just two walks). Baseball is still hard, especially for a teenaged Double-A prospect who was having a so-so year in the minors. We still love the future for Machado, but we're not going to bet on his present. Growing pains are here.

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Todd Frazier, Utility, Reds: He's turned into a surprising Rookie of the Year candidate, posting a handy .294-49-18-62 line and qualifying at three positions in standard Yahoo! leagues. Some gamers are worried about Frazier for the final month - Joey Votto is coming back soon, which means Frazier doesn't have the first-base slot to himself anymore - but we can't imagine Scott Rolen being hale for the balance of the year. Dusty Baker can also slot Frazier in the outfield if he wants. Trust the skills here, and have faith that Frazier will keep a spot, somewhere.
Nate McLouth, OF, Orioles: He's still zipping around with plus wheels, even at age 31, which is why McLouth has 15 runs and six steals during a snappy month with Baltimore. And while McLouth isn't going to threaten the warehouse too often at Camden Yards, he still can knock a ball out of the park now and then (two homers over 80 at-bats). Buck Showalter is a believer; he's using McLouth in the No. 3 slot against right-handed pitching. McLouth is a solid No. 5 outfielder or utility play in deep mixed formats.

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: John Wall goes 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, celebrity softball and the Summer League

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, John Wall went 1-on-1 to talk Bryce Harper's future, the celebrity softball game and the Summer League.

Chase Hughes and Chris Miller broke down the parallels between Wall and Harper and why Wall has chosen to stay loyal to Washington in his own contract decisions. Plus, can the Wizards really tone down the talking this season?

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

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Redskins 2018 position outlook: Outside linebackers

Redskins Training camp opens next week, and we have a break here, giving us time to put the depth chart under the microscope.

Between now and the start of camp, we will look at every position, compare the group to the rest of the NFL, see if the position has been upgraded or downgraded from last year, and take out the crystal ball to see what might unfold.

OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS

Additions: Pernell McPhee (free agent)
Departures: Junior Galette (free agent)

Starters: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith
Other roster locks: Ryan Anderson, McPhee
On the bubble: Pete Robertson

How the outside linebackers compare

To the rest of the NFL: By any measure, the Redskins had a top-10 pass rush last year. They were tied for seventh with 42 sacks and they got a sack on 7.3 percent of pass attempts, also seventh in the league. Looking forward to this year, Pro Football Focus has them ranked as the sixth-best pass rushing team for 2018. Ryan Kerrigan is showing no signs of slowing down as he approaches age 30 and Preston Smith is about to hit his prime. After the departure of Galette, the depth is questionable, and we’ll deal with that next. Even without Galette, it’s still one of the best units in the NFL. 

To the 2017 Redskins: Some downplay the decision to let Galette walk in free agency, saying he had just three sacks. But his value went beyond that. He had 9 QB hits and 25 hurries, both second-most on the team, in just 258 pass rush snaps. Someone will have to step up and replace that pressure. The spotlight will be on Anderson, who had no sacks after being a second-round pick. He will need to step up for this year’s Redskins pass rush to be as good as last year’s. 

2018 outside linebacker outlook

Biggest upside: Since the 2015 season, only one NFL player has at least 20 sacks, four forced fumbles, and three interceptions and it’s Preston Smith. His consistency is an issue but even when he is going for a few weeks between sacks he is getting pressure on the quarterback. Still, there is more ability there. Smith could set himself up for a big payday by breaking through with a double-digit sack season while continuing to make big plays in his contract year.

Most to prove: To be fair, Anderson did not get a whole lot of chances to rush the passer last year, playing just 81 pass rush snaps. Still, there are reasons to be concerned about how much he can produce after a zero-sack, one-hit, three-hurries 2017 debut season. Anderson was not expected to make a splash as a rookie, but more was anticipated. He was drafted where he was in part because of his work ethic. The Redskins hope he will work his way into a significant second-year leap. 

Rookie watch: There are no rookie outside linebackers on the roster. 

Bottom line: The main concern about the Redskins’ defense this year revolves around the cornerback spot following the departures of Kendall Fuller and Bashaud Breeland. The best way to manage problematic cornerbacks is by getting a strong pass rush. The Redskins need to Smith to have a true breakout season and for Anderson or McPhee to be a strong contributor off the bench. Along with the improved defensive line, the pass rush could transform the defensive line into a quality unit in 2018. 

2018 Redskins Position Outlook Series