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Nats Stock Watch: Rotation continuing to dominate

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Nats Stock Watch: Rotation continuing to dominate

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 5-1

Team slash: .269/.336/.406

Team ERA: 2.29

Runs per game:  4.6

STOCK UP   

Jordan Zimmermann, SP: 1-0/ 15.2 IP/ 0.00 ERA  

For this edition of Stock Watch, we probably should have just put 'the starting rotation' in this section, but we'll still single people out. Zimmermann was battling a brief bout of inconsistency  -- he allowed 13 earned runs in his three starts prior to last week -- before he posted back-to-back stellar outings. With 15 1/3 shutout innings over two starts, he's lowered his season ERA to 3.16. 

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-0/ 7.0 IP/ 9 K 

His first outing back from the disabled list was encouraging, but not dominant. His second was just about everything the Nats hoped for from a healthy Strasburg. His fastball had life, touching 97 mph at times, which set up his off speed pitches in two-strike counts. When he's able to pair his heater with that devastating breaking pitch, he looks like the guy who took the game by storm when he was first called up in 2010. It's been just two starts since his return, but if he's going to pitch like this in the second half of the season -- look out. 

Casey Janssen, RP: 2 GP/ 0.00 ERA 

Sure, it's easy to notice how dominant the starting staff has been over the past week or so. But don't forget about the bullpen, which has quietly stabilized of late. There are the occasional hiccups, of course, but for the most part things have been relatively smooth. Take Janssen, who since his disastrous outing in Cincinnati on May 30 (four runs allowed in just one inning) hasn't allowed a run to cross the plate since. In fact, that appearance in Cincy accounts for the only runs Janssen's yielded all season long. He and recent addition David Carpenter have served as an more than adequate bridge to Drew Storen in the ninth inning. 

Michael Taylor, LF: .304 AVG/ .360 OBP/ .478 SLG  

It's pretty evident that Taylor is getting more and more comfortable as he gets extended playing time in left field. The 24-year-old rookie had a pretty up-and-down start to his season, but he's now seen his average rise from .214 on May 30 to .250 as July begins. He's more confident at the plate, taking fewer poor swings and doing a better job of working the count in his favor. And when he gets his pitch, he usually doesn't miss. The gaudy power numbers he had in the minors haven't showed up yet in the big leagues, but there's no reason to doubt those will come if he continues to develop. 

Clint Robinson, 1B: .286 AVG/ .429 SLG/ 5 RBI 

Raise your hand if you had Robinson batting cleanup for an extended period of time before the season started. Don't worry, we'll wait. The 30-year-old utility man, who prior to 2015 was a career minor leaguer, has proven to be a key presence off the bench while filling in admirably for the injured Ryan Zimmerman. He along with Taylor and others show just how deep the Nats' roster is; so much so that the club can get by for a few games without many of the regulars playing, as it did over the weekend in Philadelphia. That's a credit to them as players, but it's also a nod to the organization for building a complete roster. 

STOCK DOWN

No one this week. That'll happen when a team wins nine of their last 10 games. 

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Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

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USA Today Sports

Bryce Harper will compete in Home Run Derby, but only on one condition

It’s happening.

When the 2018 All-Star Weekend comes to Washington, D.C. in the middle of July, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will compete in the 2018 Home Run Derby, but only on one condition: He has to be a member of the 2018 National League All-Star Team.

Though Harper is having a down year, only hitting .213 thus far, he leads the NL in home runs with 19.

In the June 18 update of All-Star game voting, Harper sat second among all outfielders with just north of 1,000,000 votes.

That means he’s not only going to make the All-Star team, but he’ll likely start in the outfield.

Harper, a five-time All-Star, competed in the Home Run Derby once before. He was the runner-up to Yoenis Cespedes in 2013, losing by just one long ball, 9-8.

The 2018 Home Run Derby will take place on July 16 at Nationals Park.

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It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

It's time to start paying attention to Trea Turner's sneaky-great season

Remember when the Nationals put Trea Turner in centerfield so they could keep Danny Espinosa at shortstop?

Two years later it's Turner who leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR, as you surely know if you follow the Nationals on literally any social media platform. 

So while Juan Soto and Bryce Harper continue to dominate all of The Takes, it's Turner who's been the Nats' best position player this season. 

We'll start with some basics: 

Did you know that Trea Turner leads all N.L. shortstops in fWAR? He's currently sitting at 2.4 WAR, above the likes of Brandon Crawford, Addison Russell, and Trevor Story, to name a few. (We'll ignore the fact that the top six shortstops in the A.L. all have a better fWAR.) He's a top-10 shortstop in baseball during one of the strongest eras in the position's history.

Even after a dreadfully slow start, Turner's still on pace to have the best season of his career. He posted a WAR of 2.9 last year and -- barring injury -- will realistically eclipse that by the All-Star game. 

At the plate, two stats jump off the page in regards to explaining Turner's stellar season. 

First, Turner is drawing a *bunch* of walks. His current BB% clip (10.6 percent) would be far and away the best of his career and up four percentage points from last year. It's a factor that helps explain - partially, at least - why his on-base percentage has risen and his BABIP has dropped. More walks mean fewer swings, fewer swings mean less contact, less contact means lower BABIP, etc. It's not the whole picture, but it's a big part of it. 

Secondly, Turner is making impressive contact on pitches out of the strike zone. FanGraphs calculates out-of-zone contact using a statistic titled O-Contact, which is a blessing considering some of the titles they choose to give their other stats. 

The average O-Contact across MLB in 2018 is 64.7 percent. Trea Turner's career O-Contact is 62.4 percent (although realistically it's closer to the high-50's - a small-sample-size from his abbreviated first season mucks up the number a bit). 

This season, Turner's posted an O-Contact of 69.3 percent. Not only is that 10 percentage points higher than his O-Contact from last season, but a top-50 clip in all of baseball. He's one spot ahead of Mike Trout!  Put both of these together with some encouraging Statcast numbers (rise in HardHit%, already matched his total 'barrels' from last season) and you can see why Turner's been thriving at the plate. 

Defensively, he's improved across the board as well. His UZR and DRS - considered the two most reliable fielding statistics, if such a thing exists - are both up from last year. He has the 10th-best UZR of all major league shortstops and ranks 1st in DRS. 

Last season, he finished 17th in both UZR and DRS (of all shortstops with at least 800 innings; Turner didn't log enough innings to be considered a qualified fielder). He ended the season with both numbers in the negative. 

You may be skeptical of defensive stats, which is fine. But if nothing else, the fact that Turner is turning literal negative stats into positive ones is encouraging. 

Lastly, Turner continues to be an elite baserunner. At this point in his career, his speed is arguably his best tool:

You'll note that purple dot allllllllllll the way on the right. That's Turner! Now, let's take a look at how his speed compares across all positions:

Essentially, Turner is faster than like, 98 percent of baseball. In fact, by Sprint Speed, he's the 6th-fastest player in the game. He also ranks 2nd across all of baseball in FanGraphs "Baserunning" measurements, only behind fellow teammate and mindbogglingly good baserunner Michael A. Taylor. 

So, Trea Turner an elite baserunner (maybe the best if you combine his raw speed with his baserunning stats), a top-5 shortstop in the field, and an All-Star at the plate. 

Juan Soto's been great and Bryce Harper is still extremely talented, but this year, Trea Turner has been the Nationals' best player. 

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