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2016 Nats roster outlook: Stephen Strasburg's contract year


2016 Nats roster outlook: Stephen Strasburg's contract year

Age on Opening Day 2016: 27

How acquired: Drafted in 1st round, 2009

2016 salary: $10.4 million

2015 stats: 23 GS, 3.46 ERA, 117 ERA+, 127.1 IP, 115 H, 56 R, 49 ER, 14 HR, 26 BB, 155 SO, 11-7, 2.81 FIP, 1.107 WHIP, 11.0 SO/9, 5.96 K/BB

2016 storyline: Like his longtime teammate Jordan Zimmermann the year before, Stephen Strasburg enters the final season of his contract with the Nationals in 2016. The former first overall pick could be playing his final season in Washington, as free agency awaits him. It just so happens to be a very weak free agent class for starting pitching, which probably adds to the likelihood this could be his last year with the Nats.

Whether Strasburg stays with Washington beyond 2016 is unclear, but there's no question he will be relied on heavily in this upcoming season. Zimmermann is now gone and so is Doug Fister. It is now Max Scherzer and Strasburg at the top of the Nats' rotation as the clear No. 1 and 2.

Strasburg will hope for better health in 2016 and that his dominant run to finish last season will carry over. Strasburg finally got healthy in August and pushed to the finish line with a 1.90 ERA over his last 10 starts. 

Best-case scenario: Given how good Strasburg was to finish 2015, it seems likely he will return to form this season as a top shelf starter. He is usually good for around 30 starts and an ERA in the low 3.00s.

But what if Strasburg gets even better? Was his final stretch in 2015 an indication of improvement, that he is ready to take another step?

There is definitely another level Strasburg can reach, as his talent is off the charts. An even better Strasburg would probably see his ERA drop below 3.00 across a full, injury-free season. If that happens, he will be paid quite handsomely by somebody next offseason.

Worst-case scenario: Strasburg had a procedure this offseason to remove a benign growth in his back, which made what he did late last year even more impressive. But what if he still has persisting injury issues that linger through 2016?

What made his 2015 season so confounding was the drawn-out saga of multiple minor injuries he suffered. It started with his ankle and ended up affecting his back, oblique and trap muscle. They were all tied into his pitching mechanics and his back was particularly difficult to diagnose.

Strasburg still had a solid year overall, but the injuries caused him to be uncharacteristically inconsistent. If he has similar troubles in 2016, the Nationals' rotation will be significantly affected, given how important he will be for their chances.

Most-likely scenario: From 2012-14, Strasburg was a rock in the Nats' rotation with a low ERA and the durability to take the ball every fifth day. It's likely he will return to being that guy and it would not be surprising at all to see Strasburg have a career year.

Strasburg's last 10 starts in 2015 were as well as he's pitched since he returned from Tommy John surgery. That bodes well for 2016, and perhaps so does the fact he's entering a contract year. 

FanGraphs projects Strasburg to have his best season yet with a 2.94 ERA in 31 starts. He is certainly capable of those numbers and the Nats would have quite the 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation with Scherzer and that version of Strasburg anchoring their staff.

[RELATED: Bryce Harper gives emotional acceptance speech for MVP award]

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Soto's 2-run HR lifts Nats past Yanks 5-3 in resumed Game 1

USA Today Sports

Soto's 2-run HR lifts Nats past Yanks 5-3 in resumed Game 1

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Juan Soto's latest feat: homering in a game played before he made his major league debut.


The 19-year-old Soto delivered a tiebreaking, pinch-hit, two-run shot in the sixth inning of a game that began and was suspended because of rain last month, five days before he was called up from the minors for the first time, to lift the Washington Nationals to a 5-3 victory over the New York Yankees in the opener of an unusual doubleheader Monday.

Game 1 resumed with the score 3-all and the Nationals about to bat in the bottom of the sixth. After Bryce Harper -- who had a full beard back on May 15, when the game began, but was clean-shaven this time -- struck out, and Anthony Rendon singled, Soto drove a 97 mph fastball from Chad Green (4-1) to the back of the second deck in right field.

"I thought he had a good chance to hit the ball hard," Nationals manager Dave Martinez said. "That was hard."

It was Soto's sixth homer since he was brought up from Double-A Harrisburg on May 20 -- and second against the Yankees. Soto stood and admired this one before beginning his trot around the bases.

"A pitch right in his hot zone. Soto got us again," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Obviously a really good looking player. Two pretty big shots he's hit against us."

Soto also was involved in a double play while playing left in the seventh. Didi Gregorius lined to Soto, and he lobbed the ball to shortstop Trea Turner, who sprinted to second base to double off Gary Sanchez.

Soto's stats -- and all others from Game 1 -- will count as being part of the originally scheduled game on May 15, but Soto's official debut will still be considered on the actual date it happened, according to the Nationals, citing the Elias Sports Bureau.

"I wish he was climbing the ladder more routinely. He should be in about Double-A now," Boone said. "What can you say? Nineteen and obviously doing really well."

Wander Suero (1-0) got the win for 1 1-3 scoreless innings -- one inning on May 15, and one out on Monday.

Sean Doolittle struck out Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton and got Gary Sanchez to fly out to center in the ninth for his 18th save.

Game 2, which was completely rained out May 16, was to begin a half-hour after Game 1 finished, with Washington's Erick Fedde facing New York's Sonny Gray.

The Nationals had lost five of six games entering the day.

In the month-plus since the games were supposed to be played, both teams' rosters changed, of course. Aside from Soto's arrival, two position players who started the game for Washington, Howie Kendrick (out for the season with an injury) and Andrew Stevenson (demoted to the minors) are no longer around. For the Yankees, their original starter at first base, Tyler Austin, is in the minors.

Martinez said the closest thing he could compare this situation to was Game 5 of the 2008 World Series, when the Tampa Bay Rays -- he was Joe Maddon's bench coach then -- wound up losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in a contest that began on a Monday, was halted in the sixth inning because of rain, and concluded on a Wednesday.

"It's weird, man," Martinez said.


Another oddity: The loss means the Yankees' streak of winning eight consecutive series now gets retroactively shortened to seven series, because it's as if Game 1 took place entirely on May 15.


Yankees: OF Brett Gardner was not listed in the lineup for Game 2 because an MRI exam showed swelling in his right knee, although Boone said he didn't expect Gardner to go on the DL. ... With Gardner's status uncertain, the Yankees recalled OF Clint Frazier from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and optioned INF Ronald Torreyes to that minor league affiliate.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson, on the DL for two weeks with a strained right hamstring, took fielding practice before the start of play Monday and said he "felt fine." Hellickson has taken two bullpen sessions and "felt 100 percent," so expects to be able to return soon. ... 1B Matt Adams was "still a little sore" after getting hit by a pitch on a finger Friday.


The Nationals open a three-game series at home against the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, and Martinez has not yet announced who his starter will be. The Yankees return to New York for a three-game set against Seattle, with RHP Domingo German (1-4, 5.23 ERA) pitching on Tuesday against Mariners LHP Marco Gonzalez (7-3, 3.42).

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Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

USA Today Sports

Nats rookie Juan Soto makes second MLB debut, retroactively hits HR on first-ever MLB at-bat

The Washington Nationals hosted the New York Yankees to finish a once-suspended game, tied at 3-3 in the sixth inning. Though it seemed like just a makeup, it was anything but for rookie Juan Soto.

It’s true that Soto struck out as a pinch hitter in his first-ever game on May 20. Since then, the 19-year-old has caught fire, batting .312 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 23 games this season.

But the makeup of the suspended game took place on May 15, five days before Soto was called up from Double-A to give the Nats an extra bat. Soto would make his major league debut once again.

Though it’s uncommon for a player to compete in a game prior to his major-league debut, it’s been done before. Barry Bonds hit a go-ahead single in a suspended game that dated a month before his debut. Closer Jeff Reardon threw a scoreless inning and picked up a win in a suspended game nearly two months before his debut, as well.              

After Anthony Rendon hit an opposite-field single in the bottom of the sixth, Soto pinch hit for Matt Adams who has missed the previous two games with a hand injury.                                                  

And Soto, with a chance to change his first career at-bat from a pinch-hit strikeout to anything but, did just that. He turned on a fastball and sent a rocket to right field. Aaron Judge took a few steps before looking up toward the bleachers. The ball landed in the second deck.

Talk about a first career at-bat. A no-doubt, two-run shot to give the Nationals the lead in a game that took place before his first major-league debut.