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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

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Vettleson, Rivero come aboard to Nationals

The biggest piece -- literally -- that the Nats got from the Tampa Bay Rays in return for pitching prospect Nate Karns is Jose Lobaton, the 6-foot, 210 lb catcher expected to compete for the backup backstop role with the big club.

But one of the lesser-known commodities that Washington received could end up making a much bigger impact down the road. 

Outfielder Drew Vettleson, 22, and Felipe Rivero, also 22, are likely still years away from from donning a Nationals uniform -- if they ever do. However, an American League source said over the phone that fans in Washington have reason for anticipation.

Vettleson, a plus defender with a cannon in right field, profiles as a strong 4th outfielder on a first-divison team, or as a second-division starter. The 2010 sandwich round pick makes solid contact and flashes gap power.

However, 15 home runs in 2012 became 4 homers last season, as he moved up to High-A Charlotte. Part of the problem may have been contextual: The Florida State League consistently features a dearth of offense, and advanced analytics had Vettleson hitting 12 home runs had he been in an offense-neutral league.

The jury remains out on how far his bat can take him -- but if all breaks right, his doubles power would make him a useful hitter in the lower half of the order.

Vettleson also swiped 20 bags in each of his first two minor league seasons. If he makes it to Washington, he'll make baserunners think twice about stretching singles from his spot in right thanks to an arm that brought a low-90s fastball in high school.

Rivero, a teammate of Vettleson's last year in Charlotte, went 9-7 with 91 strikeouts as a starter -- and, according to the source, "may be better than Karns -- right now."

Still, "his future is probably at the back end of the bullpen."

Capable of hitting 97 with his fastball, the lefty may lack the repertoire and the control for starting. He has experimented with a curve and a slider, but neither has yet developed into a reliable pitch. A fierce competitor who clamors for the ball in big situations, the Nats may find the most success by keeping him engaged in high-leverage, late-inning situations.

All of this is merely hope and conjecture -- but if things turn out the way Mike Rizzo and co. think they could, the Nats may have pulled one over one Tampa Bay, and nabbed a pair of key contributors in the process.  

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Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

Nationals stage spirited rally in ninth but fall just short in series opener vs. Cubs

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Wade Davis struck out batting leader Ryan Zimmerman with runners on second and third to end Washington's ninth-inning rally, and the Chicago Cubs held off the Nationals 5-4 Monday night.

In jeopardy of being shut out for the first time this season, the NL East-leading Nationals scored four times in the ninth. Their comeback began against Hector Rondon and continued when Davis entered.

MORE: CSN'S UPDATED MLB POWER RANKINGS

With Washington down 5-3, Bryce Harper's single loaded the bases with two outs. Davis threw a wild pitch that scored a run before striking out a swinging Zimmerman, who's hitting .344. The final pitch bounced, and catcher Willson Contreras zipped a low throw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to close out the victory.

Contreras hit a leadoff home run in his first career game-opening at-bat and Eddie Butler (4-2) worked five scoreless innings to keep the Cubs ahead.

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2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

2017 MLB Power Rankings: The Dodgers don't lose anymore

The Dodgers are living their best life right now. 

Cody Bellinger looks like he's just going to go and hit two home runs a game for the rest of the year, Yasiel Puig is fun again and they're fresh off a 10-game win streak. Kenley Jansen went 112 batters without issuing a walk. All of this is coming, by the way, during a year when Clayton Kershaw is more Very Good than he is Great.

It's a good time to be a fan of an incredibly young and talented team in a top-5 market with a well-regarded front office that's been written a blank check. How did everyone not named the Dodgers do this week? To the rankings! 

2017 MLB POWER RANKINGS

30. PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES

2017 Record: 24-49
Previous Ranking: 30
Last 10 Games: 3-7
Notable Performance:  Maikel Franco (.333/.419/.481 last week)

And there goes Maikel Franco, right back on the trade block. The Phillies' rebuild is starting to look a lot murkier. 

29. SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

2017 Record: 27-50
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Brandon Belt (.316/.409/.947 last week)

It's weird to see the Giants play THIS poorly. Johnny Cueto is arguably the best available starter on the trade market though, and that obviously bodes well for their future. 

28. CINCINNATI REDS

2017 Record: 29-38
Previous Ranking: 27
Last 10 Games: 1-9
Notable Performance: Joey Votto (.360/.385/.680 last week)

When you go 1-9 over the last 10 and let the Nats put an 18-spot on you, you drop a spot or two in the rankings. Them's the rules. 

27. SAN DIEGO PADRES

2017 Record: 31-44
Previous Ranking: 29
Last 10 Games: 6-4
Notable Performance: Yangervis Solarte (.364/.462/.909 last week)

In an annual July tradition, the Padres will fleece someone for one of their relievers. Brad Hand in a Dodgers uniform, anyone? 

26. DETROIT TIGERS

2017 Record: 32-42
Previous Ranking: 15
Last 10 Games: 2-8
Notable Performance: Miguel Cabrera (.400/.444/.840 last week)

The Tigers are our biggest fallers of the week. 2-8 in their last 10, including a frustrating Perfect Game bid broken up by a bunt single. Not their best week. 

SEE THE REST OF THE RANKINGS HERE