Bryce Harper: Youngest player to hit a HR since...

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Bryce Harper: Youngest player to hit a HR since...

From Comcast SportsNet
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Bryce Harper became the youngest major leaguer to homer since 1998, going deep for the first time with the Washington Nationals on a solo shot to straightaway center field Monday night off San Diego Padres right-hander Tim Stauffer. The 19-year-old Harper drove a 2-1 pitch to the grass backdrop just to the left of the 402-foot marker with two outs in the third inning. Harper raced around the bases quickly and continued his sprint straight to the dugout, where he exchanged high-fives with teammates. As the crowd cheered, Harper came to the top of the dugout steps for a curtain call, thrusting his right index finger into the air. The homer came in the outfielder's 15th game and 54th at-bat with the Nationals. He's the youngest current player in the majors -- and, at 19 years and 211 days old, the youngest to hit a homer since Adrian Beltre of the Los Angeles Dodgers was 19 years and 171 days old on Sept. 25, 1998, according to STATS LLC. Harper was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft and spent time at Single-A and Double-A last season. He began 2012 at Triple-A Syracuse, then was called up to the majors in late April because of a series of injuries to Nationals starters. Harper skipped his final year of high school, earned his GED, then played one season of junior college baseball at the College of Southern Nevada to become eligible for the draft and get a head-start on his professional career. He signed a five-year, 9.9 million contract, including 6.5 million in signing bonuses, with the Nationals in August 2010.

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Scouting the Stanley Cup Final: Possible Caps’ Free Agent Targets from the Nashville Predators

Scouting the Stanley Cup Final: Possible Caps’ Free Agent Targets from the Nashville Predators

Yesterday, JJ Regan took a look at pending free agents on the Stanley Cup-bound Penguins that could be of interest to the Caps.

Today, I’m taking a look at Nashville’s expiring contracts and evaluating whether anyone could be of help to Washington as the team looks to retool on the fly this offseason.

(All contract info via www.capfriendly.com)

Mike Fisher

Position:C
Age at the start of the 2017-18 season:37
Last contract:2 years, $8.8 million/$4.4 million annual cap hit
Season stats:18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games

Fisher, the Preds’ second line pivot and team captain, enjoyed a bounce-back season after struggling through a down year in 2015-16. In addition to racking up 42 points, his highest total in four years, Fisher plays on both special teams units. He does the little things, too. He led all Predators’ forwards in hits (160), ranked second in blocked shots (66) and won a career-best 54.9-percent of his draws. Long respected for his work ethic and leadership, Fisher was give the ‘C’ last year after Shea Weber was dealt to Montreal for P.K. Subban. He’s also married to country music star Carrie Underwood. The bottom line is Fisher has been a good player for a long time in the NHL. But given the fact that the Caps have three centers under contract for next season (Nicklas Backstrom, Lars Eller and Jay Beagle) and are likely to ink Evgeny Kuznetsov to a long-term extension, there’s simply no fit here in Washington. Not to mention, it wouldn’t seem likely that the Preds would want to lose their captain two summers in a row.

RELATED: Caps to host Leafs in outdoor game at Naval Academy

Vernon Fiddler

Position:  C
Age at the start of the 2017-18 season:37
Last contract:1 year, $1.25 million
Season stats:2 goals and 2 assists in 59 games with the Devils and Predators.

A solid fourth liner who returned to Nashville via a trade from New Jersey in February, he’s good defensive player, can kill penalties and is effective in the faceoff circle. Although he’d likely come cheap, I don’t see a fit with the Caps. It’s also possible he’ll retire following the season. Fiddler did, however, play his first six NHL seasons under Barry Trotz in Nashville and remains a favorite of the Washington coach.

Harry Zolnierczyk

Position:  LW
Age at the start of the 2017-18 season:30
Last contract:1 year, $575,000.
Season stats:2 goals and 2 assists in 24 games.

A depth player who spent 24 games in the American Hockey League this season, the bottom-six winger made his postseason debut last month and has drawn into the Predators’ playoff lineup eight times (1 goal, 1 assist, 9:05 of average ice time). There could be an opening on the left side of the fourth line if the Caps don’t re-sign Daniel Winnik, and Zolnierczyk, who has an economics degree from Brown, would come cheap. The Caps, however, can fill that role with a younger player who’s already in the organization.

P.A. Parenteau

Position:  RW
Age at the start of the 2017-18 season:34
Last contract:1 year, $1.25 million
Season stats:13 goals and 15 assists in 67 games with the Devils and Predators

Acquired by Nashville in March from New Jersey to provide postseason scoring depth, Parenteau is one of the game’s most well-traveled players. In fact, he’s played for eight teams since 2006, never spending more than two seasons in the same city. He’s played in one game in each of the three playoff rounds this spring but has not recorded a point. Again, Parenteau would likely come on the cheap but the Caps will have younger options.

Yannick Weber

Position: Defense
Age at the start of the 2017-18 season:29
Last contract:1 year, $575,000
Season stats: 1 goal, 7 assists in 73 games

Weber is a third pairing D-man for the Predators who doesn’t see time on special teams. That said, he’s a reliable vet, a right shot and wouldn’t cost much. And the Caps have a lot to sort out on the blue line.

MORE CAPITALS: Report: New deal for Oshie is 'all but done'

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Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

Redskins Playbook: After worst to first in 2016, how strong will NFC East be?

When the Redskins won the NFC East in 2015 with a 9-7 record, most critics dismissed the division as weak. That theory was largely proved right when the Redskins got stomped at home in the first round of the playoffs by the Wild Card Green Bay Packers.

In 2016, however, the NFC East largely looked like the best division in football, or at least among the best divisions. Dallas won 13 games and took the NFC East title, the Giants won 11 and took the NFC's top Wild Card spot. The Redskins had a chance to make the playoffs in Week 17, but unceremoniously lost and fell short.

Still, Washington won eight games and Philadelphia won seven. In fact, the NFC East was the only division in the NFL without a team that lost 10 or more games. The AFC West - a division that some would argue was tougher than the NFC East - still had the Chargers and their 5-11 record.

What does it mean for 2017? If anything the only team expected to regress would be the Cowboys, and their regression could easily still have them looking to win around 10 games. 

The Eagles have improved with young, star QB Carson Wentz. New York will be interesting, as they have some age at various spots on their roster but still feature a two-time Super Bowl winning QB in Eli Manning and one of the best defenses in the NFL.

As for Washington? The defense should be much improved. It almost has to be as the 2016 version struggled significantly. If the defense can just be average (and I'd argue it could push for Top 15) the offense should continue to move the ball well. Producing in the red zone needs to look different than last season too.

The NFC East looks like a beast yet again. It would be no surprise if both NFC Wild Cards come from the division.

Let us know what you think in the comments. 

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