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Nationals prospect spotlight: Reynaldo Lopez

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Nationals prospect spotlight: Reynaldo Lopez

Age on Opening Day 2016: 22

How acquired: Signed as international free agent in 2012

Position: Starting pitcher

Prospect Rank: No. 5 in Nats' org. (Baseball America)

2015 Level/Team: A-Potomac

2015 Stats: 19 G, 19 GS, 4.09 ERA, 99 IP, 93 H, 47 R, 45 ER, 5 HR, 28 BB, 94 SO, 3 HBP, 9 WP, 6-7, CG, 1.222 WHIP, 8.5 SO/9, 3.36 K/BB

2015 Analysis: Right-hander Reynaldo Lopez entered the 2015 season as the third-ranked prospect in the Nationals' organization by Baseball America after an impressive 2014 campaign that saw him post a 1.08 ERA in 16 starts split between the Auburn Doubledays and the Single-A Hagerstown Suns. That earned him a slight bump up to High-A Potomac for 2015, where he made 19 total starts from early May to late August.

Lopez did not find the same level of success with the P-Nats, posting a 4.09 ERA across 99 total innings. He was strong early in the season with only one earned run through three starts (17 IP), but quickly found trouble for an extended stretch. From May 22 to June 26 - a span of seven starts - Lopez allowed 25 earned runs on 42 hits and nine walks in 31 innings. That was good for a 7.26 ERA as opponents hit .326 against him in those outings.

But just as Lopez started the season well, he finished with impressive numbers over his last five starts. He held a 2.25 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks in 28 total innings. Opponents hit just .196/.250/.258 in those games. Lopez' season ended with a minor back injury that put him on the disabled list in August.

2016 Outlook: Lopez battled inconsistency in 2015, but seemed to find a groove down the stretch before getting hurt. Perhaps that success can be carried into the 2016 season, where he will likely start again at Potomac.

If he does go back to Potomac, it may not be for long if he pitches like he did late in 2015. Lopez turns 22 on Jan. 4 and the Nationals would like to see him start gaining some momentum and climb the ranks of their farm system. He has eye-popping stuff with a fastball that sits in the upper-90s and reaches triple digits, and he's proven for most of his brief professional career that his skills translate to games. But he will need to get back on track in 2016 to continue moving up the ladder.

A best-case scenario for Lopez could conceivably include an MLB debut in 2016. We have seen the Nationals pull pitchers from the Double-A ranks before and Lopez is likely to be there at some point in 2016.

As is the case for many young pitchers who throw hard, Lopez will need to improve his command in 2016. If he can harness his high-90s heat, he will continue to develop as one of the most promising pitching prospects in the Nats' organization.

[RELATED: Appreciating Jordan Zimmermann’s Nationals career]

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Why Nationals fans should be rooting for the Yankees in the ALCS

Why Nationals fans should be rooting for the Yankees in the ALCS

The Nationals wrapping up the NL Championship Series in a sweep has given them an unusually long break of six days before Game 1 of the World Series takes place Tuesday night. That has allowed the team and their fans to stop and soak in the glory of making it this far. It also gives plenty of time to watch the ALCS and consider Washington's next opponent.

When it comes to that, Nationals should have one clear, if undesirable, option. That is to root for the New York Yankees.

Yes, the team everyone loves to hate, the Evil Empire, the team with more bandwagon fans maybe than anyone else in sports. In a sense, the Yankees don't deserve going to the World Series as much as the Houston Astros, as they have won more championships than anyone else. But they also probably represent the Nats' best path towards getting their first.

The Astros, though more likeable than the Yankees, are also better. They are a superteam devoid of weaknesses. They would meet the Nationals in the World Series with an advantage in just about every single category. Their lineup is better, their defense is better, their pitching staff as a whole is better and their manager is more experienced. They won a World Series just two years ago and are arguably better now than they were then.

Even their starting rotation, one could argue, is at least as good if not better than that of the Nationals. They may be the only team in baseball that can match the triumvirate of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin with an equally-imposing trio of Gerrit Cole, Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke. Not to mention their vastly superior bullpen.

The Yankees, meanwhile, also have a better lineup and bullpen than the Nationals. But they don't have the rotation the Nationals do. They only had one starter this season post a sub-4.00 ERA and that was James Paxton, who has already allowed four runs in seven innings so far this postseason.

The Nationals' rotation would be a clear strength against the Yankees' and would be the ideal counter to New York's best asset, a power-hitting lineup led by Aaron Judge, D.J. LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton. And while Stanton has given the Nationals nightmares for many years, he is not 100 percent healthy due to a quadriceps strain.

There are also some good narratives in a potential Nationals-Yankees series, for those who are interested in those sorts of things. For one, the last time a D.C. baseball team made the World Series, back in 1933, they played a New York team, the Giants. In fact, the Senators beat the Giants in 1924 to capture Washington's only World Series title.

There is also an angle many Nationals fans may dismiss, but will be a factor for some. Before the Nats arrived in Washington, generations of baseball fans in Washington grew up rooting for the Baltimore Orioles. And not only were those fans trained to view the Yankees as rivals, many were scarred by the 1996 ALCS when a young fan named Jeffrey Maier reached out to catch a fly ball in Game 1 that should not have been a home run. To many baseball fans in this area, it cost their favorite team a chance to play in the World Series.

Playing New York would also give fans an easier way to travel to road games. The drive to New York is only about four hours via car or bus, and the train is even faster. Yankee Stadium would likely have a good amount of red in the crowd.

Travel considerations and media storylines aside, the most important goal for the Nationals is to win four more games and capture the team's first World Series title. Playing the Yankees increases the likelihood of that happening at least a little bit.

It's like a prescription with adverse side effects that is essential for a patient. Nationals fans should know what to do as they watch the ALCS. Just maybe hold your nose as you wash it down.

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Everything we know about the Nationals' World Series schedule (so far)

Everything we know about the Nationals' World Series schedule (so far)

The Nationals are going to the World Series. Everybody knows that by now. But how and when you can watch the Nationals play is becoming clearer by the day.

The first two games will be played in either Yankee Stadium or Minute Maid Park, depending on whether the Yankees or Astros win the American League Championship Series. Game 1 will be on Tuesday, Oct. 22, while Game 2 will be Wednesday, Oct. 23.

Games 3 and 4 will be at Nationals Park on Friday, Oct. 25 and Sunday, Oct. 26, respectively. If necessary, Game 5 will also be played at Nationals Park on Sunday, Oct. 27. A Game 5 would be the last game the Nationals host this season.

Games 6 and 7, if necessary, would be at the American League representative's ballpark on Tuesday, Oct. 29 and Wednesday, Oct. 30, respectively.

All games will be broadcast on FOX.

World Series Schedule:

Tuesday, Oct. 22:
- World Series Game 1: Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Wednesday, Oct. 23:
- World Series Game 2: Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Friday, Oct. 25:
- World Series Game 3. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Saturday, Oct. 26: 
- World Series Game 4. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Sunday, Oct. 27: 
- World Series Game 5*. ALCS Winner at Nationals. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Monday, Oct. 29: 
- World Series Game 6*. Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

Tuesday, Oct. 30:
- World Series Game 7*. Nationals at ALCS Winner. Time: TBD. TV Channel: FOX.

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