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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 4

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 4

It's week 4 of the fantasy baseball season, and patterns are starting to emerge. 

It's still early, certainly, but by week 4 it's time to start taking some of the season's breakouts and slumps a little more seriously. Is Joey Votto really this poor a hitter? No. But Patrick Corbin might actually be an ace in the Diamondbacks rotation, as is Gerrit Cole for the Astros.

With games every night, it's tough to pay attention to every storyline around Major League Baseball, so let us help you by providing a weekly outlook on what to expect from your fantasy roster, and some players you may not realize could be difference-makers.

As always, these tips will have a Nationals slant, offering some players in D.C. to avoid, and some you definitely want to play in any given week. We’ll also suggest some players around the league you should have interest in.

NOTE: Don’t expect to see guys like Bryce Harper or Trea Turner mentioned too often. They are clear must-starts every week. Don’t overthink it.

Week 4 (4/23-4/29)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

We'll get more into this recommendation in the two-start pitchers section (spoiler alert, Gonzalez is lined up to start twice this week), but the simple sell is this: he's no longer a stud, but when Gonzalez is pitching well and gets two starts in a week, start him.

One Nationals position player to start: Ryan Zimmerman, 1B 

Zimmerman has notoriously struggled out of the gate this season, and given that half their games this week will be in San Francisco, it might make sense to sit him. That said, entering the Dodgers series, Zimmerman had the highest average exit velocity in baseball, so he was bound to turn it around, and against the Mets he went yard twice and hit a triple. It seems like his ability to hit the ball hard might be translating to the field for him, and you definitely want him in your starting lineups when his hot streak comes. And it will come.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Jeremy Hellickson

This isn't the most inspiring selection, since it's pretty unlikely Hellickson is owned anyways. That said, just to be safe, you definitely don't want to buy into his "decent" start in New York. Every other Nats starter is worth using this week, though, so Hellickson is the only option that we recommend sitting ion week 4.

One Nationals player to sit: Howie Kendrick, 2B

This may seem blasphemous, since Kendrick has been a consistent source of a high batting average this season, and hitting in a quality lineup you expect the runs to be there. That said, the Nats face a killer rotation this week in the Diamondbacks' Patrick Corbin, Zack Godley, and Robbie Ray. It's probably for the best to sit the non-stars in the Nats' lineup this week in particular.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

Gio Gonzalez, who we recommended last week (you're welcome), and we're going to double down. Gonzalez pitched well vs the Mets, and one of his starts this week comes in San Francisco, probably the best pitcher's park in baseball. He also faces the Diamondbacks, but with Goldschmidt struggling to start the season, it's not the nightmare matchup it once was. Start Gonzalez with confidence.

Any 2-start pitchers worth streaming around MLB this week?

Tyler Skaggs, a member of the Angels rotation. I know what you're thinking; we're supposed to start a guy facing the Astros and Yankees this week? Yes, those two may be the best offenses in baseball, but I'd rather start a good pitcher in a bad matchup than a bad pitcher in a good matchup. Follow the talented, and believe me, Skaggs is talented. Health has always been the key for him, and with the Angels' 6-man rotation, he won't have many opportunities for two-start weeks, so take advantage while you can. If it helps, he avoids the bandbox that is Yankee Stadium, so his matchups are actually quite good from a location standpoint. 

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Gleyber Torres, SS (Yankees) 

If you pull up Torres' stats, you'll notice he hasn't played a single major league game this season. Rumors are, however, that the uber-prospect is going to be called up this week, and he's the type of talent you want on your fantasy squad, period. Last year, rookies Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger led many teams to fantasy titles, and Torres has the ability to be that kind of difference maker. Don't feel obligated to start him until he proves himself, but he should be rostered in every league as soon as he reaches the majors.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Matt Harvey, SP (Mets) 

Harvey was a popular deep sleeper entering draft season, and it's not hard to see why. He's immensely talented, has pedigree, and has flashed incredible stuff in the big leagues before. That said, it appears his comeback just isn't going to materialize, and even Mets manager (and pitching guru) Mickey Calloway looks less confident in Harvey's future this season. If he starts getting his velocity back, and it translates to the games, feel free to jump back on the bandwagon. For now, though, it's safe to drop him for another flier.

RELATED: 2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player. 

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