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All-Star door opens back up for Bryce

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All-Star door opens back up for Bryce

He's spent the better part of the last three days insisting he didn't deserve to go to the All-Star Game over Chipper Jones, but Bryce Harper doesn't have to worry about that anymore. And the Nationals rookie outfielder might just wind up in Kansas City next week after all.

Major League Baseball announced this evening that Jones has been added to the NL All-Star roster, taking the spot of injured Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp. That removes Jones from the five-man "Final Vote" competition that also includes Harper, and perhaps paves the way for the 19-year-old to win the online balloting process and a ticket to the Midsummer Classic.

Harper sat in third place when MLB released its first balloting results earlier today, behind Jones and Cardinals third baseman David Freese but ahead of Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill and Braves outfielder Michael Bourn. He'll still need to leapfrog Freese before voting ends at 4 p.m. Thursday, but perhaps he'll experience a surge now that fans don't need to take his advice and vote for Jones instead.

Earlier today, Harper reiterated his belief that Jones (who announced he'll retire at season's end) should be in this year's All-Star Game.

"I think so, definitely," he said. "He's a Hall of Famer and he's been an All-Star for 20 years. He's the face of that Braves franchise, and for his last year, I think he should be able to be in that game, definitely."

Though he'd happily accept an All-Star berth and a chance to play alongside the game's best next week in Kansas City, Harper also admits he wouldn't mind some downtime at home in Las Vegas over the break.

"I'm excited to go home, definitely," he said. "I think if I don't make the team, it'd be good for me to go home and get away from the world and just be Bryce, be normal. Just hang out with the family and get some home-cooked meals and hit with my Pop and just hang out."

Manager Davey Johnson seemed to have even stronger feelings on the matter, preferring that his rookie get a physical and mental break after starting in all but one game since he joined the Nationals on April 28.

"I'm sure he'll get banged up, but I don't think he's tired," Johnson said. "But I would like to see him get the time off. Because it is a demanding position. And even every time I get a chance, I'll move him to one of the corners to basically just rest his legs."

As for the now-defunct Jones vs. Harper argument, Johnson didn't hide his feelings.

"I think Chipper should be on it, period," the manager said. "Not somebody with 200 at-bats, first year."

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

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USA Today Sports

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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