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Which players do Nats need to protect?

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Which players do Nats need to protect?

One of baseball's many obscure deadlines strikes tonight at midnight, when players eligible for the Rule 5 draft must be added to their club's 40-man rosters or else risk being snatched away by other organizations.

Rarely do these decisions result in total disaster for teams -- how many people even remember the Nationals lost Brad Meyers and Erik Komatsu in last year's Rule 5 draft, and how many of those remember both players were ultimately returned to the organization? -- but there's always a chance a team could make a major miscalculation and lose a top prospect.

So general manager Mike Rizzo and his player development folks have some important decisions to make before the end of the night.

For the uninitiated (or the confused) here's a quick refresher course on how this all works...

-- Any players in the Nationals' organization who signed at age 18 and have played in parts of at least five seasons, plus any who signed at age 19 and have played in parts of at least four seasons, must be added to the 40-man roster by tonight.

-- Any players who meet those qualifications and aren't added to the roster are free to be selected by another club in the Rule 5 draft (which is held on Dec. 6).

-- Those players must then remain on their new club's 25-man roster (or disabled list) an entire season or else be offered back.

As things stand at this moment, the Nationals have 36 players on their 40-man roster:

PITCHERS (16) -- Tyler Clippard, Ross Detwiler, Christian Garcia, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, Cole Kimball, John Lannan, Ryan Mattheus, Yunesky Maya, Ryan Perry, Matt Purke, Henry Rodriguez, Craig Stammen, Drew Storen, Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann

CATCHERS (5) -- Jesus Flores, Sandy Leon, Wilson Ramos, Jhonatan Solano, Kurt Suzuki

INFIELDERS (8) -- Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, Steve Lombardozzi, Chris Marrero, Anthony Rendon, Carlos Rivero, Chad Tracy, Ryan Zimmerman

OUTFIELDERS (7) -- Roger Bernadina, Corey Brown, Bryce Harper, Tyler Moore, Michael Morse, Eury Perez, Jayson Werth

So, in theory, the Nationals have room to add four Rule 5-eligible players to the 40-man roster today. But they probably want to keep at least one or two open slots for free agents or trade acquisitions, lest they be forced to release someone else to clear space.

What minor leaguers are Rule 5 eligible? Basically, it's anyone drafted out of high school in 2008 or earlier and anyone drafted out of college in 2009 or earlier. Here's a partial list of the more prominent names...

RULE 5 ELIGIBLE PLAYERS
1B Justin Bloxom
RHP Paul Demny
OF Destin Hood
RHP Nathan Karns
2B Jeff Kobernus
OF Erik Komatsu
RHP Jeff Mandel
RHP Brad Meyers
LHP Danny Rosenbaum
RHP Rob Wort

Here are the pertinent questions: 1 )Which of those players would have a chance sticking in the big leagues for a full season with another organization? 2) From that group, which players are worth protecting?

Only a handful of the names appear like strong Rule 5 candidates: Rosenbaum, Karns and Kobernus. Rosenbaum, 25, has put together a nice minor-league career, pitched well last season at Class AA Harrisburg and could possibly hold down the fifth rotation spot or a long relief role on a big-league club in 2013. Karns, 24, hasn't pitched above Class A but was dominant last season and earned organizational pitcher of the year honors. And Kobernus, 24, has got blazing speed and a little bit of pop for a second baseman (though he battled injuries this season at Harrisburg).

The rest are either too raw to stick in the big leagues (Hood) or unlikely to make a major impact (Meyers, Mandel) so the Nationals can probably afford to leave them unprotected.

The educated guess here: The Nationals will add Rosenbaum and Karns to their 40-man roster before the end of the night but take their chances and leave Kobernus unprotected.

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MLB Postseason projection: Updated bracket with one week left

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USA Today Sports Images

MLB Postseason projection: Updated bracket with one week left

A week from today, the 2017 MLB postseason is scheduled to take off with the American League Wild Card game.

Still with six or less games remaining for every team, there is little that we know in terms of the exact positioning of each team in the postseason.

As of Tuesday morning, there are seven teams that are guaranteed to be in the playoffs. Three spots, the NL Central and a Wild Card spot in each league, are still up for grabs.

RELATED: IN-DEPTH LOOK AT THE WILD CARD RACE

Besides the NL Central, only the AL East is the other division that has not announced a division winner.

Also up for grabs is overall home field throughout the World Series. Without the MLB All-Star Game determining who starts as the host of the series, whichever team finishes with a higher record will have home field. That race is alive and well.

Right now it is the Los Angles Dodgers (100-57), who have leveled out after a rough August stretch, that leads the charge. Right behind them is the Cleveland Indians (1.5 GB), the Houston Astros (3.5 GB) and the Washington Nationals (4.5 GB). Surprisingly enough the Nationals face the easiest competition against the Phillies and Pirates to end the season. It will be tough for the Dodgers to keep up the pace finishing the season playing the Rockies who are still trying to claim the second NL Wild Card.

For the final three remaining postseason spots, there are nine teams mathematically alive as of Tuesday morning.

Since the last bracket update on September 22, the New York Yankees have clinched a postseason spot and the Arizona Diamondbacks have clinched the top Wild Card spot in the National League.

NATIONAL LEAGUE:

Leveling out and winning five of their last 10, the Dodgers are limping into the playoffs. Ultimately, with no push from the Nationals, Los Angeles will go on to claim the top spot in the National League.

With that, the Nationals will be regulated to second place as they have been resting their top players for over a week. Still the team is waiting for Bryce Harper to come back from what could have been a devastating injury. He is expected to be back in the line-up at some point this week.

Having a scary schedule to end the season, the Chicago Cubs (88-68) took care of business winning three of four against the Brewers this past weekend. It has garnered a magic number of now one for Chicago to claim the division and also the No. 3 seed in the postseason.

MORE NATS: WOULD YOU RATHER TAKE THE CUBS OR BREWERS?

The Arizona Diamondbacks are the only team in the postseason to know their fate once the season ends. They will be hosting the National League Wild Card Game on Oct. 4, clinching the first Wild Card spot.

Essentially, the only race in the National League is for the second Wild Card. Colorado holds the edge but only slightly as they play the Marlins and then host the Dodgers to end the year. The Brewers (1.5 GB) and Cardinals (-2.5 games) stay alive but have to win and hope for the Rockies to lose. Click here for an in-depth look at the NL Wild Card race.

If the season were to end today, here is how the National League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Colorado Rockies (84-73) at No. 4 Arizona Diamondbacks (90-67)

National League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Los Angeles Dodgers (100-57) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Washington Nationals (95-61) vs. No. 3 Chicago Cubs (88-68)

Wild Card Race:

Colorado Rockies:             ---
Milwaukee Brewers:        -1.5
St. Louis Cardinals:          -2.5

AMERICAN LEAGUE:

Every year it seems that as the season comes to a close, the American League East is still up for grabs. Both the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have already clinched a playoff spot, but with New York’s win and Boston’s loss on Monday, the race has opened up once again. It ultimately will be the difference between the No. 3 seed and the Wild Card play-in game, but likely the Red Sox are not going to relinquish the division crown.

Both the Indians (AL Central Division Winner) and the Astros (AL West Division Winner) now have a heated battle for the top seed in the American League. Neither team appears to be conceding to rest players either. The lead for Cleveland is currently at 2.0 games. The remaining schedule favors the Indians as the Astros face the Rangers and the Red Sox to end the year, all on the road.

By the end of the night, the Minnesota Twins, who have a magic number of two, could wrap up the second Wild Card. A win over Cleveland and a loss by the Angels against the White Sox is all they need to clinch a postseason berth. The only saving grace for Los Angeles is that the Twins do have a three game series with Cleveland who has won 29 of their last 31. Click here for an in-depth look at the AL Wild Card race.

If the season were to end today, here is how the American League bracket would look:

Wild Card Round (Winner-take-all):

No. 5 Minnesota Twins (82-74) at No. 4 New York Yankees (87-69)

American League Divisional Series (Best-of-5):

No. 1 Cleveland Indians (98-58) vs. Wild Card Round Winner
No. 2 Houston Astros (96-60) vs. No. 3 Boston Red Sox (91-65)

Wild Card Race:

New York Yankees:     +5.0
Minnesota Twins:           ---
Los Angeles Angels:     -5.0
Texas Rangers:             -6.0
Kansas City Royals:      -6.0
Tampa Bay Rays:          -6.0

All records and standings are as of Thursday morning at 9:00 am.

MORE NATS: NATS’ COSTUMES FROM PLAYER’S GAME OF THRONES NIGHT

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Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth awesomely lead Nats' 'Game of Thrones' dress-up

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Instagram: @bharper3407

Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth awesomely lead Nats' 'Game of Thrones' dress-up

The Washington Nationals are known for getting dressing up as fictional and real characters and getting really into it, but Sunday, they topped themselves. 

Led by Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth, the team went all-out, die-hard "Game of Thrones" this year, and it was spectacular. Werth was dressed as Jon Snow, while Harper got super into it as Snow's direwolf, Ghost. 

But while Harper and Werth are definitely the highlight of this tradtion, other Nats' costumes looked pretty great (and accurate) as well. 

Number 1 team this side of The Wall!! #nats #mlb #gameofthrones #rookiedressup

A post shared by Sammy Solis (@sammy22solis) on

Rookie dress up time! #gameofthrones #faithmilitant #nats #mlb

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And thanks to Sammy Solis' Instagram account, there's also proof he ran into George R.R. Martin, the novelist behind "Game of Thrones."

Weird running into George R. R. Martin in the lobby 🤔 #gameofthrones #nats

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MORE MLB: Updated Wild Card Standings with 7 days remaining