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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

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Nats prospects faring well in Fall League

While the Fall Classic got off to a rousing (and unexpected) start last night, the Fall League is kicking into high gear out in Arizona.

A "finishing school" of sorts, the AFL features upper-level prospects from every organization in baseball, dispersed among six teams for a six-week season. Stephen Strasburg participated in 2009. Bryce Harper was there in both 2010 and 2011.

The Nationals don't boast anyone quite as prominent as those two this fall, but there are several notable names currently playing for the Salt River Rafters. Let's run through everyone on the roster to date...

3B ANTHONY RENDON
The Nationals' first-round pick in 2011 (sixth overall), Rendon is off to a bit of a sluggish start. In nine games, he's hitting .212 (7-for-33) with two doubles, three RBI (all of them coming on Oct. 17), six walks and eight strikeouts. He has only one hit over his last 14 at-bats, but the Nationals are less concerned with the 22-year-old's numbers and more concerned that he get significant playing time after missing most of the regular season with a fractured ankle.

OF BRIAN GOODWIN
Another 2011 draft pick (compensation for losing Adam Dunn to the White Sox), Goodwin has hit well so far in his AFL debut. In nine games, he's batting .286 (10-for-35) with three homers, two doubles, three RBI, four walks and 12 strikeouts. He's already got four multi-hit games and is reaching base at a .359 clip.

1B MATT SKOLE
The Nationals' organizational player of the year after launching 27 homers in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown, Skole has picked up right where he left off at the end of the regular season. He's amassed a .387 batting average (12-for-31) in nine games with two homers, three doubles, seven RBI, seven walks and 11 strikeouts. A third baseman during the season, he's been playing first base with the Rafters (in part to keep the hot corner open for Rendon).

SS JASON MARTINSON
The 24-year-old shortstop is on the Taxi Squad (so he only plays Wednesdays and Saturdays), and he's struggled to produce in the limited opportunities he's received. In five games, Martinson is 1-for-18 with a double, three RBI, one walk and nine strikeouts.

RHP RYAN PERRY
After seeing time in the Nationals bullpen this year, Perry was sent to Class AA Harrisburg and converted into a starter. He dominated at that level but has yet to see that success translate to the AFL. The 25-year-old right-hander has made three starts, allowing seven runs and eight hits in nine total innings.

RHP COLE KIMBALL
Having missed the entire season while recovering from major shoulder surgery, Kimball is trying to rehab his way back to the big leagues this fall. The 27-year-old reliever has made four AFL appearances, two of them not so strong (including a three-walk debut on Oct. 12). Kimball has made two scoreless outings, though, including one in which he retired all four batters he faced (two via strikeout).

RHP PAUL DEMNY
The 23-year-old hurler didn't make much of a name for himself at Class AA Harrisburg (6-8, 5.46 ERA in 28 appearances) and he's already put a bunch of men on base in the AFL (15 in 7 2/3 innings, seven via walk).

RHP AARON BARRETT
A ninth-round pick in 2010, Barrett impressed as a late-inning reliever with low-Class A Hagerstown and high-Class A Potomac this year, and he's been lights-out against some very tough competition in Arizona this fall. In four scoreless innings so far, Barrett has five strikeouts without issuing a walk.

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

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Everything you need to know about the new and improved MLB Trade Deadline

For a long time, Major League Baseball had the best, most exciting trade deadline among the four major sports. In recent seasons, that excitement has been eclipsed by the popularity of the NBA, but baseball still stands ahead of football and hockey in terms of in-season movement.

In an effort to shake things up a bit, baseball’s trade deadline underwent some changes in the offseason.

Notably, while July 31 has always been deadline day, in past years it was a bit of a misnomer. July 31 was technically just the Non-Waiver Trade Deadline in years past. The month of August has always allowed trades to be made as long as players pass through waivers. If a player is claimed off waivers, his team can either pull him back, let him go for nothing, or negotiate a deal with his claiming team only.

This obviously made for much more limited movement in August, but it was always an option. 

Not anymore. Now? July 31 the *only* deadline.

The August revocable waivers trade deadline was always a bit convoluted, and it never made much sense to have more than one deadline. So it’s logical to think the powers that be would want to simplify things for the league.

Reportedly, Major League Baseball is hoping the change will not only help simplify in-season moves, but also help jumpstart offseason activity. The thinking is if teams have even just one fewer option to improve their roster midseason, then contenders will be forced to get aggressive in the offseason.

It remains to be seen if that will come to fruition, but one forthcoming change does seem pretty obvious. The singular trade deadline should make for a much more active July.

Both buyers and sellers have to commit to a direction earlier in the season now. Last year, for example, the Nationals executed their mini-firesale in mid-August, once it had become clear they were not going to compete for the postseason. At the end of the July they were still undecided, which is why they held onto Bryce Harper.

Considering how long it can take major deals to come together, teams have to essentially decide by the All-Star break if they are in or out on competing for October. It will be especially difficult for teams to read the writing on the wall when they are hovering around .500.

As of this writing, there are 10 teams within six games of .500 in either direction, and that doesn’t include organizations like the Red Sox, Nationals and Athletics who have quality records but are way behind runaway division leaders. Will they want to trade away controllable assets for a shot at a one-game Wild Card berth?

General Managers who can forecast their team’s likelihood of competing, and respond accordingly, will be rewarded under the new system. Orioles GM Mike Elias already began his team’s sell-off, trading Andrew Cashner away weeks before the end of July. By contrast, in 2018 both Jonathan Schoop and Kevin Gausman were moved by the Orioles with under an hour to go on deadline day.

It’s hard to perfectly predict all the ways rule changes can affect a sport, but in the case of the singular trade deadline, it’s obvious that teams are now required to commit earlier, with fewer games of information from which to work.

That’s exciting for a sport that could use some more player movement-related excitement.

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Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

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USA Today

Sánchez and Adams lead Nationals in crucial win over Braves

ATLANTA—Anibal Sanchez outpitched Mike Soroka and scored the go-ahead run in the fifth inning, Matt Adams homered and the Washington Nationals beat the Atlanta Braves 5-3 on Saturday night.

Second-place Washington pulled within 5 games of the NL East-leading Braves, improving to 33-14 since May 24, best in the majors over that span. Atlanta has dropped four of five.

Sanchez (6-6) got a big assist in the bottom of the fifth when shortstop Trea Turner turned a bases-loaded double play, leaping to nab Nick Markakis' liner and throwing to first to beat Josh Donaldson back to the bag.

Soroka (10-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in six innings. He had won 10 straight decisions, best by an Atlanta pitcher since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux had a 10-decision streak in 2001.

Sean Doolittle got the last five outs, facing the minimum, for his 21st save in 25 chances. He struck out Ronald Acuna Jr. with a runner at second to end the eighth and breezed through the ninth.

Washington went up 4-1 in the fifth when Sanchez reached on an infield single to third, took second on Donaldson's throwing error and scored on Turner's double. Turner took third on Adam Eaton's single and scored on Anthony Rendon's single. Eaton scored on Juan Soto's single.

The Nationals took a 5-3 lead in the eighth off A.J. Minter as Turner singled, stole second and scored on Eaton's single.

Adams went deep for the 15th time, an opposite-field homer that bounced off the top of the wall in left-center and into the stands to tie it at 1-all in the fourth.

Sanchez, who pitched for the Braves last year and helped them win the division, allowed three runs and six hits and has a 2.70 ERA in his last nine starts.

Atlanta led 1-0 in the first when Acuna reached on an infield single, stole second base, advanced on a flyout and scored on Freddie Freeman's single.

Brian McCann's ninth homer, a two-run shot in the sixth, chased Sanchez and cut the lead to 4-3.

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NBC Sports Washington's Michael Stearman contributed to this Associated Press story.