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Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Nationals prospect roundup: Best pitching performances

Triple-A Syracuse

Reynaldo Lopez: 9 inn, 4 H, 0 R, 7 K, 0 BB

Surprise, surprise: Lopez threw a gem last Sunday. The righty threw 96 pitches, 66 for strikes as he went the distance and shutout Rochester. He'll be back in DC, in some form or another, soon. 

Double-A Harrisburg

Phillips Valdez: 7 inn, 6 H, 2 R, 2 K, 2 BB

Slimer pickings in Harrisburg. Valdez pitched well enough to get the win against New Hampshire. A week ago, he went 7 inn, 8 H, 2 R, and 4 K in a win against Richmond, if you prefer more walks hits to less walks. Still, Harrisburg is feeling the pinch of no more Giolito/Lopez. 

High-A Potomac

Whit Mayberry: 6 inn, 5 H, 1 R, 4 K, 3 BB

Mayberry, whose 3-1 on the year with a 4.00 ERA, pitched one of the best games of his season yesterday. It was only the second time this year he's held a team under two runs, and his 4 strikeouts were one shy from his season best (7) on June 30th. 

Low-A Hagerstown

Everyone who pitched for the Suns on 7/24: 9 inn, 7 H, 2 R, 7 K, 2 BB

It was a group effort in the Suns win against Charleston last Sunday. It was also a Nats reunion, with rehabbing starter Joe Ross getting the start and Sammy Solis continuing to rehab as well. It was James Borque, however, who got the win, pitching 4 innings while allowing one run on two hits. 

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Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

Nats Stock Watch: When will Bryce Harper break out his funk?

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

Record: 2-4

Team slash: .240/.307/.410

Team ERA: 4.56

Runs per game: 4.1

 

STOCK UP

Trea Turner, 2B/CF: .320 AVG, 4 RBI, 4 XBH, 4 SB, 5 R

It’s going to be hard for Dusty Baker to keep Turner out of the lineup, isn’t it?

In a short period of time, the recently-promoted 23-year-old infield prospect has already shown he deserves to be the Nats’ leadoff man for the foreseeable future. In the last nine days alone, the speedster notched three triples (two away from tying the team lead), two doubles and five stolen bases. That’s the kind of production Washington has sorely missed atop the lineup.

When the Nats played at Progressive Field in Cleveland, an American League ballpark, they had the luxury of playing Turner in center field, putting Ben Revere in left and making Jayson Werth the designated hitter. But when they begin their upcoming series in San Francisco, they’ll lose the DH, essentially forcing Baker to choose between Turner and Revere.

Are the Nats ready to make Turner the everyday center fielder over Revere?

Wilson Ramos, C: .478 AVG, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1.346 OPS

For those who thought Ramos might come back to earth after the all-star break, think again. The 28-year-old catcher’s career year rolled on with another big week, raising his average to .336 — second-best in the NL to teammate Daniel Murphy.

Ramos now leads all big-league catchers in average, RBI, OPS and is tied for the top spot in home runs. Not too shabby.  

 

STOCK DOWN

Bryce Harper, RF: .050 AVG, 7 K, .180 OPS

At what point does an extended slump simply become a down season? Because after nearly three months of under performance, that appears to be where the Nats are with the reigning NL MVP.  

It's hard to explain why Harper hasn't quite looked like himself for so long — have pitchers found a weakness in his swing? Is he dealing with an unknown injury? Something else entirely?—but the 23-year-old phenom hasn't given any indication that he's going to get out of his funk anytime soon. He has just seven hits in his last 54 at-bats and a paltry .491 OPS over that span, which has dropped his average below .238 for the first time this year. For context, he's never finished below .270 for a season. 

So how do the Nats handle this? They've already tried moving Harper to the cleanup spot, and later bumped him up to the two-hole. Neither move has worked so far. So it looks like all they can do is keep putting him in the lineup and hope that his bat can somehow reignite during the stretch run.   

Jonathan Papelbon, RP: 4 GP, 2.2 IP, 1-2, 6 ER, BS

It seems fairly obvious that the Nats might have second thoughts about their closer. That’ll happen after someone allows the game-winning runs to score in consecutive losses, as Papelbon did earlier this week.

But even if the Nats openly admit they have an issue at the back end of the bullpen, then what?  

Well, in a weird way, Papelbon’s struggles have actually come at a fortuitous time. With the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline fast approaching, the Nats still have time to acquire an additional ninth-inning option. The problem is that the top arms that are available like New York Yankees setup man Andrew Miller or Kansas City Royals closer Wade Davis will cost prospects that the Nats are unlikely willing to part with. 

In the meantime, the club still needs Papelbon to rebound down the stretch — whether that's in the closer role or not. 

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Harper continues to struggle, Solis looks good in return for Nats

Harper continues to struggle, Solis looks good in return for Nats

Leftover notes and observations from the Nats' 4-1 win over the Indians on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field.

Harper keeps scuffling: Bryce Harper's bizarre struggles continued on Wednesday as the Nats right fielder went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Both of his outs on balls in play were on pop ups and they weren't just-miss, long-hit flyouts like the two he smacked on Tuesday night. At the moment, it appears his swing is tracking lower than it should be and as a result he's getting under the ball.

Harper is now just 5-for-49 (.102) in his last 13 games with 12 strikeouts, a .237 on-base percentage and .415 OPS. Whatever has been wrong with Harper over the last few weeks and months appears to be getting worse and neither he nor the Nationals seem to have an answer as to why.

Because of his walks and power numbers, there are some stats that suggest Harper has still put in a decent season. Plenty of teams would sign up for his 20 homers, 55 RBI, 15 steals, .377 OBP and .830 OPS through 97 games. But after what we saw both last year and in April, it's clear Harper is not playing anywhere close to his capabilities.

The month of August begins on Monday, which means Harper's offensive slide will reach three months, or half of the season. At some point it may go from being a slump to an overall down-year, unless he can find his swing and turn it around soon. 

Solis looks good in return: Ryan Zimmerman made his return from the DL in Tuesday's loss, and on Wednesday it was Sammy Solis' first appearance since recovering from right knee inflammation. The Nats lefty got two outs in the eighth inning on strikeouts and allowed one hit before getting pulled for Matt Belisle. He only threw seven pitches across three at-bats.

Both Solis' fastball and curveball looked sharp and he was only removed due to a matchup with the right-handed hitting Mike Napoli up and the speedy Francisco Lindor on first. Though it was a brief showing, Solis' return was a positive sign for a Nats' bullpen that can use some help right now. He has been one of their best arms all season and could earn himself an important role down the stretch if he keeps having success.

Rivero stumbles again: Felipe Rivero began the ninth inning on Wednesday afternoon with Jonathan Papelbon and Shawn Kelley both unavailable, and in doing so took the mound for the second time in about 15 hours, given the quick turnaround for a day game. Just like Tuesday night, Rivero found trouble and allowed a run on two hits.

This time Rivero only recorded one out before he was replaced by Blake Treinen, who came in and promptly got a double play to end the game and give the Nats a 4-1 win. The run Rivero surrendered - on a Tyler Naquin RBI single - didn't end up making a difference in the game, but it was the second straight game Rivero gave up a run after he went 17 1/3 straight scoreless innings. That was the longest streak of any Nats reliever this season and made it look like Rivero had turned a corner. Perhaps he has, but the results haven't followed in recent days.

[RELATED: Strasburg rebounds as Nats top Indians]

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