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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

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Nats finish up strong in Arizona Fall League

While most of the country is busy preparing for Thanksgiving -- or watching a whole lot of football, as the case may be -- there were a select few professional baseball players still in action over the weekend.

The latest edition of the Arizona Fall League wrapped up Saturday when the Peoria Javelinas toppled the Salt River Rafters, 4-3, in the annual championship game, one that featured several Nationals prospects on the losing end.

Though their team came up short in the title game, a couple of Nats acquitted themselves quite well out in Arizona over the last six weeks.

Let's start with Anthony Rendon, who after a slow start to his AFL season finished strong, posting a .338 batting average, 10 doubles, 11 RBI, 15 walks and a .930 OPS in 22 regular season games. The 2011 first-round draft pick then went 1-for-4 with a triple in Saturday's championship.

For Rendon, this was both a successful AFL stint and also confirmation of his advanced skills. The 22-year-old third baseman had appeared in only 43 professional games before heading out to the desert but by all accounts wasn't fazed facing top Class AA and Class AAA talent.

Rendon still needs to prove he can stay healthy over the long haul while facing more experienced pitchers, but his performance this fall certainly suggests he's not far from being big-league ready. If all goes well, there's every reason to believe we'll see him in D.C. no later than September.

Matt Skole probably won't be showing up at Nationals Park in 2013 ... unless he's there to receive another organizational player of the year award. But the 23-year-old appeared to prove his stellar regular season (27 homers, 92 RBI in 101 games at low-Class A Hagerstown) was no fluke.

Skole, the Nationals' fifth-round pick in 2011, hit .305 with three homers, 15 RBI and a .944 OPS in 17 regular-season games for Salt River. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts in the championship game but made a couple of sparkling plays at first base, a position he had never manned as a professional.

Salt River manager Matt Williams was so confident in Skole's offensive ability, he had the slugger batting third on Saturday (one spot ahead of Rendon).

At the top of Williams' lineup was another Nationals prospect, Brian Goodwin, who wound up part of one of the game's most significant plays. Goodwin, who went 2-for-3 with a walk, led off the bottom of the seventh with his third triple in 21 AFL games. Representing the tying run, he tried to tag up on a subsequent flyball to right field but ultimately was called out on appeal for leaving third base too early.

Costly mistake or not, Goodwin made a name for himself during the AFL season. His average settled at .238, but he posted 11 extra-base hits and a .340 on-base percentage. If nothing else, the 22-year-old center fielder confirmed he should be considered someone who could crack the Nationals' lineup in 2014.

Not everyone in a Nats uniform thrived out in Arizona. Right-hander Ryan Perry, trying to refashion himself as a starter after pitching out of the big-league bullpen this season, was given the ball for the championship game but was rocked for four runs on eight hits and two walks in only three innings. Combined with six starts during the AFL's regular season, Perry finished with a 5.84 ERA.

Fellow right-hander Cole Kimball didn't pitch on Saturday, but he did make 11 appearances and establish his throwing shoulder is healthy again following major surgery that sidelined him for 14 months. Kimball also was named winner of the AFL's Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award, given annually to the player who "best exemplifies unselfishness, hard work, and leadership."

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This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

This year's Nationals roster is stacked with glorious facial hair

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to have: A talented outfield led by Bryce Harper and Adam Eaton. A rising superstar at shortstop in Trea Turner. A possibly major hole at closer.

The following is a list of things the 2017 Washington Nationals appear to not have: Razors. Shaving cream. A desire to groom their faces.

A fun tradition at each team's spring training is the annual photo day, because photo day forces professional athletes to pose in front of cameras like they're being featured in the poster of an upcoming blockbuster movie. And after poring through the snapshots from the Nationals' photo day, a single trend emerged.

This year's team is a hairy bunch.

Among that bunch are the usual suspects, such as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth:

But there are some surprises, most notably of which is Stephen Strasburg. The right-hander tends to keep his mug 100-percent clean-shaven, but for now, at least, he's allowed his face to become quite fertile:

Then there's newcomer Adam Lind, who has a goatee that Duke's Blue Devil logo would be forced to respect:

Shawn Kelley, meanwhile, who's pictured below, has a beard that looks like...

...Derek Norris' beard, before Derek Norris' beard hit puberty and grew up to be the strong, mature beard it is today:

There are scraggly ones, such as Daniel Murphy's:

And fuller, more complete ones, like Eaton's (full marks, by the way, for the trade acquisition's ability to seamlessly connect 'stache to beard):

The most wild photo of all, however, was this one of Turner. Is this the Nats stud, or a picture of Leonard DiCaprio from a scene in The Revenant? Hard to tell with all that stubble the infielder's cultivating:

One potential positive of this team-wide movement: If Turner and his teammates keep what they're growing down in Florida going throughout the season, their faces will be plenty warm by the time playoff baseball comes around. 

RELATED: HARPER GOES YARD IN FIRST AT-BAT OF THE SPRING

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Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year