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Three Nats prospects in MLB.com's top 100

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Three Nats prospects in MLB.com's top 100

MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo has updated his list of the game's 100 best prospects and each of the Nationals' first three draft picks in 2011 were included. Infielder Anthony Rendon, pitcher Alex Meyer, and outfielder Brian Goodwin were ranked with Lucas Giolito, regarded by Mayo as the team's fourth best prospect, left as the odd man out.

Rendon comes in at 37, likely because of his injury-plagued 2012 season. Rendon's stock was much higher a year ago when he was considered the best bat in the 2011 draft.

Mayo acknowledges the injury problems and then gives praise.

"When healthy, Rendon is a plus defender at third. At the plate, he has the kind of advanced approach that should allow him to move quickly while hitting for average and power," he said.

Rendon was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg in August and should start next season at one of the system's higher levels. He could be a good candidate for a call-up next season as well, possibly as early as June or July.

Meyer was ranked 57th by Mayo after having a sort of surprise season in the minors. He began at Hagerstown and dominated at the Low-A level with a 3.10 ERA and 107 strikeouts in 18 starts. He was then promoted to Potomac and pitched even better with a 2.31 ERA in seven outings. Across both levels of Single-A Meyer went 10-6 with a 2.86 ERA and 139 strikeouts in 129.0 innings.

Here is part of his take on Meyer:

"Very tall and lanky, Meyer still has plenty of room to add weight and strength to his 6-foot-9 frame. He has two plus pitches, a fastball up to 97 mph and a power slider (86-88 mph). He also added a changeup, and although its not as good as the two plus pitches, it has the chance to be an average pitch."

It should be noted Mayo has Meyer ahead of Kevin Gausman (63rd overall) who was picked fourth overall by the Baltimore Orioles in the 2012 draft.

Goodwin made the top 100 with an overall ranking of 74th. The 2011 pick is described by Mayo as a five-tool player who "could be a very good center fielder in time, and he also has the arm, as well as the bat, to move to a corner if need be." Goodwin hit .280 in 100 total games across Low-A Hagerstown and Double-A Harrisburg last season.

Mayo ranked a former Nationals prospect, A.J. Cole, at 98th. Cole was traded to the Oakland Athletics in a multi-player deal that landed Gio Gonzalez in Washington.

For Mayo's full list and his top 20 Nats prospects right here.

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5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

5 things you should know about new Nationals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals traded for Royals' pitcher Kelvin Herrera this evening. 

Not only did the Nationals trade for Kelvin Herrera, but they did so without losing Juan Soto, Victor Robles, or Andrew Stevenson. The first two were never in any real danger of being traded for a relief pitcher who will be a free agent at year's end, but the Nats escaped only giving up their 10th and 11th ranked prospects:

On the surface, this deal looks exceptional for the Nationals. Herrera is another back-of-the-bullpen type that only further deepens the Nats' options in that department. Here are a handful of things you should know about the Nationals' newest pitcher:

1. Herrera's strikeout "issue" is complicated 

Herrera, like many other closers over the last half-decade, has made his name in strikeouts. He topped out at a 30.4 percent strikeout rate in 2016, and has a 23.4 percent clip for his career. His K% this season sits at 23.2 percent, which is both higher than last season and lower than his career average. 

People will look at his dramatic K/9 drop as a red flag, but "per/9" stats are flawed and not generally a worthwhile stat to build an argument around. A pitcher who gets knocked around for five runs in an inning -- but gets three strikeouts -- can have the same K/9 of a different (much more efficient) pitcher who strikes out the side in order. 

2. Herrera has basically stopped walking batters 

His career BB% sits at 7.1 percent. His highest clip is nine percent (2014, 2015) and his lowest was a shade over four percent (2016). 

This season, he's walking batters at a two percent  rate. In 27 games this season, he's walked two batters. Two! 

3. The jury seems to still be out on how good of a year he's had so far

Analytics are frustrating. On one hand, they can serve wonderfully as tools to help peel back the curtains and tell a deeper story - or dispel lazy narratives. On the other hand, they can be contradictory, confusing, and at times downright misleading. 

Take, for instance, Herrera's baseline pitching stats. His ERA sits at 1.05, while his FIP sits at 2.62. On their own, both numbers are impressive. On their own, both numbers are All-Star level stats. 

When you stack them against each other, however, the picture turns negative. While ERA is the more common stat, it's widely accepted that FIP more accurately represents a pitcher's true value (ERA's calculation makes the same per/9 mistakes that were mentioned above). 

More often than not, when a pitcher's ERA is lower than his FIP, that indicates said pitcher has benefited from luck. 

Throw in a 3.51 xFIP (which is the same as FIP, but park-adjusted) and we suddenly have a real mess on our hands. Is he the pitcher with the great ERA, the pitcher with the Very Good FIP, or the pitcher with the medicore xFIP? 

4. He was a fastball pitcher, and then he wasn't, and now he is again

Take a look at Herrera's pitch usage over his career in Kansas City:

In only three years, he's gone from throwing a sinker 31 percent of the time to completely giving up on the pitch. That's pretty wild. 

Since 2014, he's gone to the slider more and more in every year. 

His current fastball usage would be the highest of his career. He only appeared in two games during the 2011 season, so those numbers aren't reliable. Going away from the sinker probably helps explain why his Ground Ball rate has dropped 10 percentage points, too. 

5. The Nats finally have the bullpen they've been dreaming about for years

Doolittle, Herrera, Kintzler, and Madson is about as deep and talented as any bullpen in baseball.

Justin Miller, Sammy Solis, and Wander Suero all have flashed serious potential at points throughout the year. Austin Voth is waiting for roster expansion in September. 

The Nats have been trying to build this type of bullpen for the better part of the last decade. Health obviously remains an important factor, but Rizzo's got the deepest pen of his time in D.C. 

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Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

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USA TODAY Sports

Nationals trade for Royals' closer Kelvin Herrera

The Nationals made the first major trade of the season this evening. 

Midway through their Monday night game against the Yankees, the team announced that they had completed a trade for Royals' relief pitcher Kelvin Herrera:

Herrera's a major acquisition for the Nationals, as the pitcher is in the middle of a career year. He's currently pitched 25 innings so far, posting a 1.05 FIP, 2.62 ERA and 0.82 WHIP. His 2.1 percent walk rate this season is a career low. 

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