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Max Scherzer gets All-Star nod, two Nats left out

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Max Scherzer gets All-Star nod, two Nats left out

Max Scherzer was named to the NL All-Star team Monday evening and will join teammate Bryce Harper next week in Cincinnati as the Nationals’ lone representatives for the Midsummer Classic. For now.

Scherzer, arguably the NL’s best pitcher through the season’s first half, is the logical choice to start next Tuesday night’s game at Great American Ball Park, but he could wind up unavailable to pitch if he starts Sunday’s first-half finale against the Orioles.

Drew Storen, meanwhile, was left off the roster announced by MLB and NL manager Bruce Bochy on Monday, though the Nationals closer could still wind up in Cincinnati as a replacement for an injured or unavailable pitcher (perhaps even Scherzer).

For now, Harper and Scherzer are the only Nationals to make the squad, with Harper voted in by fans as a starting outfielder and Scherzer voted in by fellow players as part of the NL’s pitching staff. Each was selected for the third time in his career.

“It’s awesome,” Scherzer said. “It’s one of the highest honors in the game to be selected to play in an All-Star Game, and this is my third game. Every single one of them means something different, and this one’s very special.”

Scherzer was an All-Star for the AL each of the last two seasons as a member of the Tigers. He started the 2013 game at Citi Field, retiring Brandon Phillips, Carlos Beltran and Joey Votto in order before departing. He pitched a scoreless inning of relief last year at Target Field, striking out both Yasiel Puig and Paul Goldschmidt and ultimately was credited with the win.

It’s possible, though, Scherzer won’t be eligible to pitch for the NL this year. MLB rules prohibit any pitcher who starts on the Sunday before the All-Star Game from appearing in the exhibition two nights later, and Scherzer may wind up starting that day in Baltimore.

MORE NATIONALS: HARPER STICKS TO HR DERBY DECISION

With Stephen Strasburg placed on the disabled list this week, the Nationals could elect to keep the rest of their rotation on a 5-day rotation, which would put Scherzer (who starts Tuesday against the Reds) in line to start Sunday against the Orioles. That decision hasn’t been made yet, and manager Matt Williams said it won’t be made until Thursday (an off-day for the club).

“Our process is that we want to win baseball games,” Williams said. “We’ll see how he comes out of tomorrow, and where it’s at and what we can do going forward, given the off-day. There’s a lot of factors there. By the off-day, we’ll have that determination made.”

Scherzer wouldn’t delve into the subject when asked Monday, saying only: “I’ll talk about that when we cross that road.”

Scherzer’s worthiness of the All-Star selection was never in doubt. He ranks second in the NL with a 1.82 ERA, leads the league with 118 2/3 innings pitched, is second with 139 strikeouts, is tied for third with nine wins and just completed a historic stretch in which opposing hitters went 0-for-52 against him.

“Being able to watch Max pitch every five days, it’s a lot of fun,” Harper said. “It’s something that I enjoy. He’s got that mentality out there that you want a guy to have out there. He really gets me locked-in every single day. We have our little conversations about other pitchers and other teams and whatnot. It’s just exciting and fun to watch. I’m glad he’s on our side.”

The Nationals had no other slam-dunk All-Star choices beyond Harper and Scherzer, but Storen made a strong case for himself with a dominant first half. The right-hander currently ranks second in the NL with 25 saves in 27 opportunities (11 of them coming with the Nats leading by only 1 run when he entered), along with a 1.97 ERA and a 37-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

“I think Drew’s had a fantastic first half,” Williams said. “He’s leading baseball in 1-run saves. That says something. That says something about his capabilities when he steps in there in the ninth inning. The unfortunate part about the All-Star Game every year is that there are only a certain number of guys that can go. But you never know. There are more games to play before then, and who knows what may happen. I’ll officially say I think he’s had a fantastic first half of the season, and if there’s an opportunity, I’d love to see him go.”

Storen could yet be added as a replacement for an injured pitcher or for a starter who pitches Sunday and becomes ineligible. Infielder Yunel Escobar (.314 batting average, 90 hits) and outfielder Denard Span (.305 batting average, 11-for-11 on stolen base attempts) also are potential replacement candidates off the Nationals’ roster.

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

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Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

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Fantasy Baseball Outlook: Week 8

 

It's a fun time of the year in fantasy baseball. Now that we're seven-to-eight weeks into the season, teams are starting to realize they may need the help of their top prospects in order to compete this year, which means lots of young talent getting the call. Plus, many players who began the season injured are getting healthy. Between the prospects and players returning from the Disabled List, fantasy owners should have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to setting their lineups this week.

As always, we're here to help you sort through those painful roster decisions, and we're going to keep it simple to avoid paralysis by analysis. As a reminder, It's your team, and your decisions you ultimately have to deal with, so don't treat this advice as the gospel. That said, it doesn't hurt to gain as much information as you can when making your decisions. Good luck!

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 8 (5/21-5/27)

One Nationals pitcher to start: Gio Gonzalez

This is the second week in a row where every Nationals pitcher is only scheduled to pitch once. Last week, we recommended Max Scherzer because duh, and while we still think you should start him, it's also worth using Gonzalez. Gio has had a lot of success this season, sporting a 2.36 ERA in the middle of May, plus the Padres are notoriously poor against lefties (8th-worst batting average and OPS vs LHP in the majors).

Gonzalez isn't a must-start stud, mostly due to his high walk rate and resulting WHIP, but he's good enough to take advantage of the right matchups, and this qualifies.

One Nationals position player to start: Anthony Rendon, 3B

Just in case you're thinking about getting cute and sitting one of your studs, let this be a reminder that Rendon is great at what he does. In the past, we've recommended sitting him when working his way back from injury, but he's gotten enough reps at this point to get back into the swing of things.

It looks like he's struggled recently (one hit in the last seven days), but don't forget the Nats missed five straight days thanks to weather/planned off days. Plus, the Nats are set up to faces lefties in half their games this week, and Rendon has hit better against southpaws all season long.

One Nationals pitcher to sit: Tanner Roark

The Marlins have scored literally the fewest runs in baseball against right-handed pitching this season, and Roark hasn't been bad in 2018, despite the poor W-L record. Still, you're not sitting Scherzer or Strasburg, and we already recommended Gonzalez.

Roark has struggled against the Marlins in past years, as his 5.14 ERA vs the Marlins since 2015 is his 5th-worst number against any opponent, and while this year's Miami lineup looks far worse than in past seasons, and since Roark isn't the type of pitcher who gets enough strikeouts to raise his on a start-by-start basis, it's good enough of a reason for us to sit him this week. 

One Nationals player to sit: Juan Soto, OF

It's always fun when one of a team's top prospects gets called up, and that excitement doubles when the player is a teenager. It's always easy to see the high upside and imagine him taking the league by storm right from the get-go. That said, while it's worth a speculative pickup, we'd strongly recommend leaving Soto on the bench until we see A) how he hits against Major League pitching and B) what sort of playing time he'll get.


That's especially true this week, as his new manager Dave Martinez is already talking about sitting Soto against lefties, and wouldn't you know it, the Nats are scheduled to face southpaws in at least three games this week. It's possible Soto will be worth starting in the near-future, but for now, just be happy to add him to your rosters, not your starting lineups.

Any 2-start pitchers for the Nationals this week?

No. Not all starters have been scheduled yet, but the five-straight days off the Nats had last week threw a wrench into the works for their rotation, and as of now, no one is projected to make two starts.

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

It's a really weak week for two-start streaming options. Beyond the seven or so obvious starts, who are almost certainly owned in your leagues already, there's not a lot to choose from. We'll go with the calculated risk Jake Faria of the Rays. Faria gets two starts at Tropicana Field this week, and he's been much better pitching at home during the course of his career. He'll be facing two scary opponents on paper, but the Orioles have struggled at the plate all season long (with the exception of a recent hot streak, hence the risk), and Faria has already pitched well against the Red Sox this year, allowing just one run over the course of two starts.

This isn't our most confident recommendation, but there are far worse options you could turn to in a brutal week.

One player you might not realize you should pick up: Andrew Heaney, SP (Angels) 

Heaney continued his recent stretch of strong play, as while he allowed four runs and walked on Saturday, none of the runs were earned, and he struck out seven. Heaney is a former top prospect, having once been considered the best left-handed pitching prospect in baseball, and he has a superb 10.5 K/9 this season, to go along with a quality 57 percent groundball rate. That means he's not allowing a lot of contact, and the contact he is allowing isn't doing much damage.

Given his prospect pedigree and strong peripherals to start the year, Heaney is well worth an add if you find him available on the waiver wire. He's not just a speculative pickup, but somebody worth inserting into your starting lineup right away. Hopefully, because he plays on the west coast and isn't a household name, he's still available in some of your leagues.

One player you might not realize you should drop: Robinson Cano, 2B (Mariners) 

If somehow Cano is eligible in a DL spot in your league, and you don't have the spot filled with another star, then you can disregard this one. But, if he's listed in your league as suspended and not injured, then he likely won't be worth holding onto during his time away. 80 games is a lot, obviously, and a guy who's going to miss half the games in a season needs to be sensational in the other half to make up for it. Cano's past his prime, and while when healthy he's obviously still worth starting, he's not the type of guy you tie up a bench spot with, unless you're in the deepest of leagues.

Plus, if you're savvy, you can always remember to pick up Cano again a week or two before his suspension is up, since no one else in your league is likely to snag him in the meantime. For now, though, feel free to use the roster spot on somebody who will contribute over the next three months.

MORE NATS NEWS:

- Too Soon For Soto?: Nats make a bold call-up
- Rankings Update: Where did the Nats fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?