Quick Links

Which Nats deserve to be All-Stars?

804758.png

Which Nats deserve to be All-Stars?

Fan voting for the 83rd All-Star Game officially came to an end at midnight, so if you were planning a last-minute ballot-stuffing barrage in support of the Nationals, you're too late.

Not that it was likely to do much good. The chance of any position player getting voted in as an All-Star starter is miniscule, considering none of the eight guys on the ballot (Wilson Ramos, Adam LaRoche, Danny Espinosa, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse, Rick Ankiel, Jayson Werth) ranked even in the top five at his position when the most recent totals were announced Tuesday.

That doesn't, however, mean the Nationals won't be well-represented 11 days from now when Kansas City hosts the midsummer classic. Quite the contrary, they're poised to send multiple players to the game for the first time since 2005 and perhaps even send more than two players for the first time since the franchise arrived in town. Those selections will just have to come from fellow player balloting or the selection of National League manager Tony La Russa.

Rosters will officially be announced Sunday afternoon, so there's not much wrangling or posturing left to do. With that in mind, let's run through the Nationals' candidates and put some odds on their eventual All-Star selections. (And be sure to cast your own votes in the Nats Insider poll. You may vote for more than one player.)...

STEPHEN STRASBURG
The case for: He's tied for ninth in the NL in ERA (2.60), tied for fifth in wins (nine) and leads the majors in strikeouts (118). Plus, he'd be a big-time draw as a first-time All-Star.
The case against: Not much of one, but perhaps his lack of innings (he's averaging only six per start) could turn a few people off.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 90 percent

GIO GONZALEZ
The case for: He's tied for second in the NL in wins (10), is second only to Strasburg in strikeouts (108) and is sixth in hits allowed per nine innings (6.25). An All-Star last season with the Athletics, he's already well-respected around the game and has raised his profile even more this year.
The case against: He isn't exactly closing out the first half of the season in top form. After winning NL Pitcher of the Month honors in May, he's 3-2 with a 4.34 ERA in June.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 75 percent

IAN DESMOND
The case for: He's second among all MLB shortstops in home runs (13), RBI (41) and slugging percentage (.485) and is first in extra-base hits (37). And he's played sparkling defense, ranking fourth among NL shortstops in UZR150 (7.8).
The case against: Desmond's .276 batting average isn't anything spectacular, and his .304 on-base percentage is not good at all.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 50 percent

BRYCE HARPER
The case for: He's taken the baseball world by storm at the tender age of 19. He's on pace to hit more homers (20) than any teenager other than Tony Conigliaro, and produce an OPS (.850) higher than any teenager other than Conigliaro and Mel Ott.
The case against: After a hot start, he's cooled off in the last two weeks, hitting only .220. And at age 19, with only two months of big-league service time, he hasn't quite established himself as being worthy of standing alongside the game's very best.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 30 percent

ADAM LaROCHE
The case for: Leads all NL first basemen with 15 homers and 48 RBI while playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
The case against: Though he's continued to hit for power, he's otherwise been in a prolonged slump at the plate, hitting just .167 over his last 35 games.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 25 percent

TYLER CLIPPARDThe case for: He's the only reliever in the majors with at least 10 saves and 10 holds. He's a perfect 12-for-12 in save opportunities since taking over as closer, surrendering one total hit during that span. An All-Star last season, he's already recognized as one of the game's best relievers.
The case against: Because he didn't take over as closer until late-May, he hasn't compiled nearly as many saves as the league leaders. Because he was an All-Star last season as a set-up man, some might believe he doesn't need to be recognized again.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 20 percent

SEAN BURNETTThe case for: He's got a 1.71 ERA and 0.987 WHIP while stranding 73 percent of inherited runners this season.
The case against: For a non-closer to get the nod, he's got to have overwhelming stats. His stats are very good, but probably not overwhelming.
Odds of being named an All-Star: 10 percent

Quick Links

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

Quick Links

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE