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Trevor Gott hoping to carve out role in Nats' revamped bullpen


Trevor Gott hoping to carve out role in Nats' revamped bullpen

Given the complete makeover the Nationals' bullpen is currently undergoing, it sure seems like opportunity is abound for just about any reliever the club brings on board this offseason. 

Enter Trevor Gott, the 23-year-old right hander the Nats received in a trade from the Angels last week in exchange for veteran infielder Yunel Escobar. He joins a new group of relief arms that include Oliver Perez, Shawn Kelley, Yusmeiro Petit and Nick Masset — all of whom are tasked with fixing what was arguably the team's biggest weakness in 2015. 

"I was excited," Gott said at Nats WinterFest over the weekend. "I think it will be a good opportunity for me. Obviously, the Angels did a lot for my career and gave me the opportunity to play in the big leagues but that’s just part of the business getting traded. I’m just really excited."

As a rookie last season, Gott appeared in 48 games for LA, compiling a 4-2 record with a 3.02 ERA and a 27-14 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He told reporters that he likes to rely on his fastball — which is clocked around the mid-90's — along with a slider and a developing changeup. 

"I had guys like Joe Smith and Huston Street to help guide me along in the bullpen and help me figure out how everything works," he said of his brief tenure with the Angels. "I played with Trout. Now I get to play with Harper. It’s pretty cool. I’ve been on two very good teams with two of the best young players in the game."

At 23, the Lexington, Kentucky native will enter 2016 as one of the youngest members of the bullpen. But since the Nats were willing to give up one of their better position players to acquire him, does that mean that Gott, who pitched primarily in the seventh inning in 2015, could already be given a key role in his first year with his new team? 

"I don't know initially," GM Mike Rizzo said. "We'll go to spring training and see where it all works out...that's always the hope for guys who have great arms and have the mentality to pitch later in the games. He proved it with the Angels that he's capable of doing it. We foresee [the coaches] put him in the mix with our other bullpen guys that really have plus stuff and we feel good about the depth and the quality of guys we have in there."

"I think all relievers goal is to become a closer at some point," Gott added. "But that’s a long term goal. Right now, I’m just trying to fit in for the Nationals wherever they want me and do whatever I can to help the team win." 

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

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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.