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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

While most of the country is busy preparing for Thanksgiving -- or watching a whole lot of football, as the case may be -- there were a select few professional baseball players still in action over the weekend.

The latest edition of the Arizona Fall League wrapped up Saturday when the Peoria Javelinas toppled the Salt River Rafters, 4-3, in the annual championship game, one that featured several Nationals prospects on the losing end.

Though their team came up short in the title game, a couple of Nats acquitted themselves quite well out in Arizona over the last six weeks.

Let's start with Anthony Rendon, who after a slow start to his AFL season finished strong, posting a .338 batting average, 10 doubles, 11 RBI, 15 walks and a .930 OPS in 22 regular season games. The 2011 first-round draft pick then went 1-for-4 with a triple in Saturday's championship.

For Rendon, this was both a successful AFL stint and also confirmation of his advanced skills. The 22-year-old third baseman had appeared in only 43 professional games before heading out to the desert but by all accounts wasn't fazed facing top Class AA and Class AAA talent.

Rendon still needs to prove he can stay healthy over the long haul while facing more experienced pitchers, but his performance this fall certainly suggests he's not far from being big-league ready. If all goes well, there's every reason to believe we'll see him in D.C. no later than September.

Matt Skole probably won't be showing up at Nationals Park in 2013 ... unless he's there to receive another organizational player of the year award. But the 23-year-old appeared to prove his stellar regular season (27 homers, 92 RBI in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown) was no fluke.

Skole, the Nationals' fifth-round pick in 2011, hit .305 with three homers, 15 RBI and a .944 OPS in 17 regular-season games for Salt River. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the championship game but made a couple of sparkling plays at first base, a position he had never manned as a professional.

Salt River manager Matt Williams was so confident in Skole's offensive ability, he had the slugger batting third on Saturday (one spot ahead of Rendon).

At the top of Williams' lineup was another Nationals prospect, Brian Goodwin, who wound up part of one of the game's most significant plays. Goodwin, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, led off the bottom of the seventh with his third triple in 21 AFL games. Representing the tying run, he tried to tag up on a subsequent flyball to right field but ultimately was called out on appeal for leaving third base too early.

Costly mistake or not, Goodwin made a name for himself during the AFL season. His average settled at .238, but he posted 11 extra-base hits and a .340 on-base percentage. If nothing else, the 22-year-old center fielder confirmed he should be considered someone who could crack the Nationals' lineup in 2014.

Not everyone in a Nats uniform thrived out in Arizona. Right-hander Ryan Perry, trying to refashion himself as a starter after pitching out of the big-league bullpen this season, was given the ball for the championship game but was rocked for four runs on eight hits and two walks in only three innings. Combined with six starts during the AFL's regular season, Perry finished with a 5.84 ERA.

Fellow right-hander Cole Kimball didn't pitch on Saturday, but he did make 11 appearances and establish his throwing shoulder is healthy again following major surgery that sidelined him for 14 months. Kimball also was named winner of the AFL's Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given annually to the player who "best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work, and leadership."

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Soto, Harper homer in Nats' win over Padres

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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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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.