Michael Bourn was undoubtedly a stronger player than B.J. Upton in 2012, yet something surprising happened when free agency opened earlier this month; Bourn’s most recent team, the Braves, and his original team, the Phillies, both made Upton the priority in talks. Did it have to do with the price tag? Bourn was seeking more…
Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see which player's stock is rising or falling.
Team slash: .221/.275/.385
Team ERA: 2.44
Runs per game: 3.57
Daniel Murphy, 2B: .333 AVG, 5 RBI, .889 OPS
So it's been a month now, and Murphy has shown no signs of slowing down yet. Is this just who he is? Time will tell, but the longer his hot streak keeps going, the more inclined the Nats are to believe this might be the real deal. If so, they might have gotten one of the best bargains of the offseason.
Murphy now leads the team with a 1.044 OPS on the season, and is second only to Bryce Harper with 15 extra-base hits. Ever since he changed his approach late last year with the Mets — crowding the plate more and focusing on pulling the ball rather than going the other way — it seems he's become a different hitter, and one opposing pitchers have had a tough time adjusting to. Can he really keep this up?
Max Scherzer, SP: 1-0, 0 ER, 9 K, 0 BB
Now that's the Max Scherzer Nats fans remember. After scuffling in a few of his previous starts, Washington's ace looked like himself against the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout frames while striking out nine batters and walking none. With the rest of the rotation in a groove right now, Scherzer picked a good time to find his early-2015 form.
Bryce Harper, RF: .077 AVG, 13 K, .277 OPS
After winning NL Player of the Month for a spectactular April, who'd have thought Harper would find himself listed here in the first week of May? That's baseball, and it shows that even the best players in the game aren't immune to a slump or two. That said, Harper's mired in the type of funk we haven't seen from him in quite some time: He has just one hit in his last 23 at-bats, has struck out 13 times in the last week alone compared to four walks. And in the last nine games, his batting average has fallen from .323 to .256. Ouch.
Harper will start hitting again, probably sooner rather than later. But with the rest of the lineup starting to get on track, it'd be nice to see what this offense could be if he starts looking like the reigning MVP.
Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 0-1, BS, 2.18 WHIP
Papelbon blew his second save of the young season Tuesday night in Kansas City, a frightening sight for Nats fans who are worried their closer may not be reliable. The 35-year-old reliever is still 9-of-11 in save opportunities, and while that's the most important metric, there are a few other things to consider.
The phrase du jour about Papelbon these days is how he's "not missing bats" the way he did earlier in his career. That's true; per Fangraphs, his induced swing-and-miss percentage this season is at 8.3, down from 12.4 in 2015. One of the probable reasons for the decline is because his average fastball velocity has steadily fallen from 94.8 mph in 2011 to 90.8 this year. As a result, his strikeout numbers down, making him eminently more hittable. He's allowed base runners eight of his 13 outings, so even when he does earn a save, he usually doesn't pitch a clean inning.
Over the next week, we’re featuring each of the Redskins’ 2016 draft picks and spotlighting three things you need to know about them. Up today…
Name: Kendall Fuller
Drafted: 3rd round (84th overall)
School: Virginia Tech
1—‘Microfracture surgery’ are two of the scariest words in pro sports. The Redskins, though, decided Fuller was worth the risk because, well, players who possess his level of talent aren’t typically available in the third round. And, according to General Manager Scot McCloughan, because team doctors, including Dr. James Andrews, the surgeon who performed the microfracture procedure, are confident the former Hokie (and Good Counsel Falcon) will make a full recovery. “I trust my doctors,” McCloughan said this week. “We passed him on the physical. He’s going to be okay. Now, 100 percent for sure? Who knows? But I felt good enough to know the kind of player he is, the kind of person he is, where he comes from family-wise, he’s going to do everything in his power to make sure he’s a football player for us. When you get to the third round, to get a corner that I think can be a starting corner, is [an] excellent [value].” Coach Jay Gruden said Fuller won’t participate in next week’s rookie minicamp and conceded that Fuller might be held out until training camp in late July. Fuller’s health, obviously, will be one of the bigger storylines to monitor this summer.
2—The Redskins envision Fuller (5 foot 11, 187-pounds) filling the nickel corner role in 2016—though nothing is set in stone just yet. “Well, I think he’s big enough to play corner, but we also think he’s got a skill-set to play nickel, which is very important,” Gruden told ESPN 980 this week. “Ideally, we’d like to keep him at nickel and keep [Bashaud] Breeland outside. If he can play outside, we can move Breeland inside to nickel.” Fuller played inside and outside at Virginia Tech. Either way, though, a trio of Josh Norman, Breeland and (a healthy) Fuller should provide a big time boost for a defense that yielded a whopping 65 passing touchdowns over the past two seasons.
3— Like second round pick Su’a Cravens, Fuller comes from a football family. In fact, the Baltimore native will be the fourth Fuller brother to play in the NFL, joining Vincent, Corey and Kyle. Vincent and Corey sat in the front row at Kendall’s introductory news conference at FedEx Field last Saturday. Vincent played 76 games as a reserve safety spread over seven seasons for the Titans and Lions. Corey is a fourth-year wide receiver for the Lions, while Kyle, a corner, was the Bears' 2014 first round selection and has started 30 of 32 games the past two seasons for Chicago. The Redskins, by the way, play the Lions in Week 7 and the Bears in Week 16. “It definitely helped me,” Kendall said of being the youngest. “My brother, Corey, he probably beat me up the most. But just being able to watch them, they definitely said something when they needed to, shared some knowledge and influence when they needed to. They knew I was watching, so they knew that they had to carry themselves right because they didn’t want me to follow their footsteps if they were doing the wrong thing. It was definitely fun growing up in that household.”
It's not even noon and the Ravens have already won the Internet for today.
The team account tweeted out an incredible video of Steve Smith and Bengals DB Adam Jones battling for a touchdown with lightsabers, then followed it up with Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker and C-3PO gathered around a hologram of Terrell Suggs dancing.
These are PERFECT. Such attention to detail! Do you see Smith's purple lightsaber?
For those of you wondering where the Jedi moves came from, today is May 4, also known as Star Wars Day (#MayThe4thBeWithYou, get it?). The whole Internet is geeking out over the movies today, so brace yourself (and follow the Ravens).