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How the Nationals will assemble their playoff roster

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How the Nationals will assemble their playoff roster

The Nationals, officially, have known they'll be competing in the postseason for two full weeks now, so they've had plenty of time to consider their 25-man October roster.

Major League Baseball, however, doesn't require teams to actually submit their roster until the morning of Game 1 of a particular series, so Mike Rizzo and Davey Johnson don't need to finalize anything until Sunday morning.

Which gives those two men ample opportunity to run through every possible scenario while also waiting to find out the identity of their opponent for the National League Division Series.

The answer to that question -- Braves or Cardinals? -- could play a big role in deciding the last couple of spots on the Nationals' roster. Johnson isn't hiding his desire to have more left-handed pitchers for a series against Atlanta than St. Louis, given the composition of each club's lineup.

Would that be enough to convince Rizzo and Johnson to use John Lannan as their No. 4 starter against the Braves while relegating 10-game winner Edwin Jackson to the role of spectator? Based on Rizzo's answer earlier this week to a more generic question about postseason roster construction, it didn't sound that way.

"I don't think going into that first round of playoffs ... we're going to dance with who brung us," the GM said. "We're going to go with the team that we've had this season out there. As we have throughout the season, we feel good about who we've got on our roster, the way it's created."

Jackson made 31 starts, going 10-11 with a 4.03 ERA. He's also the only starter in the organization with postseason experience.

Lannan made only six starts (four of them in September after Stephen Strasburg was shut down), going 4-1 with a 4.13 ERA. He does, however, own a 9-5 record and 3.20 ERA in 16 career starts against the Braves.

There are other down-to-the-wire considerations for Rizzo and Johnson...

-- Should they carry a seven-man or an eight-man bullpen? And if they carry the extra man, who should fill that spot: Christian Garcia? Zach Duke? Lannan?

-- If they chose to stick with a seven-man relief corps, who gets the last spot on the bench: Mark DeRosa? Eury Perez? Corey Brown?

With all that in mind, here's an educated guess for the NLDS roster, regardless of the opponent. (One key point to remember: The roster can be reset before each round of the postseason.) ...

STARTING PITCHERS (4)
1. LHP Gio Gonzalez
2. RHP Jordan Zimmermann
3. LHP Ross Detwiler
4. RHP Edwin Jackson

RELIEF PITCHERS (8)
1. RHP Drew Storen
2. RHP Tyler Clippard
3. LHP Sean Burnett
4. RHP Craig Stammen
5. RHP Ryan Mattheus
6. LHP Michael Gonzalez
7. LHP Tom Gorzelanny
8. RHP Christian Garcia

STARTING LINEUP (8)
1. RF Jayson Werth
2. CF Bryce Harper
3. 3B Ryan Zimmerman
4. 1B Adam LaRoche
5. LF Michael Morse
6. SS Ian Desmond
7. 2B Danny Espinosa
8. C Kurt Suzuki

BENCH (5)
1. C Jesus Flores
2. IF Steve Lombardozzi
3. IF Chad Tracy
4. OF Roger Bernadina
5. OF Tyler Moore

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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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