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Around the NL East: Are Mets moves enough to catch Nats?

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Around the NL East: Are Mets moves enough to catch Nats?

ATLANTA BRAVES  

The Braves continued their plan to acquire young pitching, trading veterans Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson to the Mets in exchange for minor league arms John Gant and Rob Whalen. Both arms are considered mid-level prospects at best -- neither of them are listed in Baseball America's 'Midseason Top 50 prospects' list -- but it's certainly better to take a chance on them rather than keep veterans around that don't have a longterm future with the club. 

Will they trade anyone else? There are reports out there that the Braves have apparently dangled Cameron Maybin and Andrelton Simmons, but have been asking for a king's ransom in return. The only other viable option right now appears to be closer Jim Johnson, who's been a little more steady in 2015 than he had been in recent years.

MIAMI MARLINS  

The Marlins are hoping that reliever Steve Cishek isn't the only player they wind up dealing before Friday's deadline. They are currently fielding offers for Dan Haren, and apparently, the hang up is that the club doesn't want to send money to other teams to help pay for his salary. That would seem typical of the Marlins, who have a history of being fiscally conservative. But Haren has a $10 million base salary for this year and is reportedly close to receiving a $3 million bonus, so it's not like Miami would have to hand over chump change to other teams in a deal.

NEW YORK METS  

The Mets made a modest upgrade to their lineup in dealing for the aforementioned Uribe and Johnson. But they weren't done there, later netting Athletics reliever (and former Nationals setup man) Tyler Clippard to shore up the back end of their bullpen, much to the chagrin of the D.C. fanbase. But all the recent activity, the question still remains: Are these moves enough to help New York catch Washington in the NL East standings? 

Who knows the answer to that one. It's not like Mets acquired any of the big fish that were available on the trade market. Regardless, it's clear they don't want to stand pat because they truly believe they have a shot to take the division crown if things break their way. In some respects, they're right; the Nats have been banged up most of the season, had inconsistent starting pitching and still have question marks in their bullpen. So why not strike while you can? The Mets have made it this far into the season and managed to stay in the race, so there's no reason to think they'll fade anytime soon. Will Washington counter with a few moves of its own?

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES 

If this is it for Cole Hamels in Philadelphia, what a heck of a way to go out. Pitching in what was likely his final start as a member of the organization, the lefty ace tossed a no-hitter in Wrigley Field against the Cubs over the weekend. Hamels showed why teams are so interested in trading for him in the first place: His velocity was on point (he was hitting 94 mph at times with the fastball), showed excellent command and got hitters to chase pitches out of the zone for strikeouts. It was a great moment for a player and a team that has been through rough times in the last few years.   

So, who will Hamels be pitching for next? That's the million dollar question, and teams are apparently lining up for his services as the trade deadline approaches. The reported leading contenders are the Dodgers and Angels at the moment, but the buzz on Monday night was that the Astros -- even after acquiring Scott Kazmir --  are making a push to get him. Either way, it looks like the Phillies have a good chance of getting a quality haul of prospects once this is is all said and done. 

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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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