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Nationals roster review: Stephen Strasburg

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Nationals roster review: Stephen Strasburg

Age on Opening Day 2016: 27

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2009 draft

MLB service time: 5 years, 118 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $7.4 million

Contract status: Arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2017

2015 stats: 23 GS, 127.1 IP, 115 H, 56 R, 49 ER, 14 HR, 26 BB, 155 K, 1.107 WHIP, 11-7, 3.46 ERA, 2.81 FIP, 2.1 WAR

Quotable: "I think I learned to be more aware of my thoughts out there. There are times in the game when you can kind of let your focus slip just for a split second. And I made it a point to not let that happen, to just focus on each pitch and just let everything I've got go on that individual pitch and turn the page." — Stephen Strasburg

2015 analysis: To say this was an unusual season for Strasburg is an understatement. On Memorial Day, he owned a 3-5 record and 6.55 ERA that ranked 109th out of 110 qualifying major-league starters. How the right-hander managed to then go 8-2 with a 1.76 ERA after that to completely salvage his season was nothing short of remarkable.

The biggest key to Strasburg's turnaround was health. He suffered a minor ankle sprain in spring training, but that had a domino effect on him, leading to poor mechanics and recurring neck and back pain. He finally seemed headed on the right path in midsummer, but then a strained oblique suffered on Independence Day knocked him out another month.

Thanks to a dominant final stretch, Strasburg finished his season on a true high note. In spite of those early struggles, he still wound up posting a lower WHIP, opponents' batting average, on-base percentage and OPS and a higher strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2015 than he did in 2014.

2016 outlook: The Nationals went to great lengths to protect Strasburg early in his professional career, hoping to get the most possible out of him before he would be eligible for free agency. Well, he's about to enter his final season of club control, so if ever there was a time to get everything they can out of him, this is it.

For that to happen, Strasburg will have to avoid the early season struggles he endured through in both 2014 and 2015. He should head to spring training 100 percent healthy and now has a better understanding what ailments he should or should not attempt to pitch through. If that all goes well, the Nationals hope to get a complete, full season of Strasburg at his best, seeing where that takes them.

There could be a scenario, however, in which Strasburg doesn't spend 2016 in Washington. As was the case last winter with Jordan Zimmermann, the Nationals could field trade offers for Strasburg, recognizing the likelihood of signing him to a long-term deal is slim at this point. That said, general manager Mike Rizzo will be reluctant to part ways with Strasburg a year before he has to, needing to be blown away by a trade offer. With Zimmermann and Doug Fister gone, the Nationals probably need Strasburg to help anchor their rotation alongside Max Scherzer.

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

WASHINGTON -- Juan Soto, the youngest player in the majors at 19, hit a three-run homer in his first career start as the Washington Nationals defeated the San Diego Padres 10-2 on Monday.

Mark Reynolds had two solo home runs for the Nationals, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Bryce Harper had a homer and an RBI double.

Soto's drive highlighted a five-run second inning for Washington. The promising outfielder, who played for three minor league teams this season, hit the first pitch from Robbie Erlin (1-3) over the Nationals bullpen in left-center field. Soto also singled.

Soto's homer traveled an estimated 442 feet at Nationals Park. He earned a standing ovation from the crowd and the teenager responded by taking a curtain call. Per Baseball-Reference.com, Soto became the first teenager to hit a home run in a major league game since Harper on Sept. 30, 2012.

Called up to Washington on Sunday, Soto became the first 19-year-old to make his major league debut since Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias in 2016. He entered that game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and struck out.

Washington's starting left fielder began the season at Class A Hagerstown. He hit a combined .362 with 14 homers and 52 RBIs in his three minor league stops.

Gio Gonzalez (5-2) allowed two runs and two hits in seven innings.

San Diego's Franmil Reyes, playing in his seventh career game, also hit his first career home run.

Trea Turner hit a pair of RBI doubles for Washington. Reynolds had three hits.

Erlin surrendered six runs and seven hits over four innings in his third start of the season. San Diego had won three in a row.

Reyes connected for a two-run homer in the fourth inning, but the Padres' lineup generated little else against Gonzalez, who allowed one run over six innings in a no-decision at San Diego on May 9.

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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Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

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@MLB

Juan Soto crushes a homer in the first at-bat of his first-ever start

Juan Soto, the highly-regarded 19-year-old Nationals' prospect, got his first major league start of his career tonight. 

How did it go, you ask? Surely it would take Soto - who was in Single-A less than two weeks ago - some time to adjust? 

What were you doing at 19??

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.