With the All-Star break a week behind us we’ve entered the dog days of summer, and the second half of the baseball season is in full swing. Most minor leagues are already well into their latter halves, but the beginning of the major league second half is nonetheless extremely significant for therm. The trade deadline is fast approaching, and the number one commodity moved at the deadline is of course prospects. Additionally teams will typically promote prospects around the time of the All-Star break, and when you consider September call-ups, minor leaguers are always a couple of phone calls away from a life-changing event. For an organization with as many major league needs and impact prospects as the Nationals the second half is especially uncertain; and so with that said I hope to give you a picture of what to look for and expect out of the Nationals farm over the course of the second half.
Mike Rizzo finally made the deal every single person in any way affiliated with the Nationals had been clamoring for since April, landing a pair of proven late-inning relievers in Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle from Oakland in exchange for proven not-late-inning reliever Blake Treinen and prospects 3B Sheldon Neuse and LHP Jesus Luzardo.
Finally… bullpen help is on the way. Ryan Madson and Sean Doolittle immediately become the best two relief pitchers on the Washington Nationals, despite neither being their former team’s closer. The two only have 4 saves between them this year, but so what? The Nats needed help and they got it. But are these two enough? (Probably not.) And who on the team is worth keeping around and who needs to be voted off the island?
On Saturday, it was announced that Joe Ross, who left his last start after 3.1 innings due to an injury, would have season-ending Tommy John surgery to fix the tear in the ulnar collateral ligament of his right elbow. Ross had been experiencing some declining velocity in his pitches through his starts all season, so an arm injury isn’t all that surprising. But this sudden surgery will end his season and likely set him back for most of 2018 with no current timetable for return. This puts a pin into an up-and-down season for Ross, puts the Nationals down a fifth starter, and adds another item to their midseason wish list.
The Washington Nationals are doing impressive things in the first half of the 2017 season. The offense has been particularly dynamic, with standout performances from Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, and Anthony Rendon placing the Nationals in the top five in multiple offensive categories such as wRC+ (4th), wOBA (2nd), average (2nd), on base percentage (2nd), runs (2nd) and stolen bases (5th).
The Nationals kick off the second half of the 2017 season tonight on the road against the Reds sitting 9.5 games up in the NL East. While the squad has sat in first place for practically the entire season, it hasn’t been an easy road getting there. Some players have outplayed their expectations while others have been disappointing so far this season.
The All-Star festivities are over and the league is settled into a lovely break until July 14th, but there is no rest for fans, media, and team decision-makers. This week you will see plenty of think pieces on what “Team X” or “Team Y” needs to do in the second half to find themselves playing October baseball. While many are looking ahead to the end of the month and the ever-interesting trade deadline, here we will look at what the next two weeks or so have in store.
Aaron Judge fought his way to the Home Run Derby title and further into our hearts like Rambo with a baseball bat for a machete or like a Great Dane puppy. I still haven’t decided which yet. Gary Sanchez, Cody Bellinger, Miguel Sano — all the contestants contributed to the night-long monsoon of dingers. God bless the long ball, each and every one. That includes the ones from Justin Bour, who put up 22 home runs only to be beaten by Judge’s 23. But what’s really important about the derby, out of all the bombs and player celebrations, is love.
What is the best free agent signing the #Nats have made to date?
— My name is Jo(e)nas📎 (@TheNatsBlogJoe) June 21, 2017
We’ve reached the All Star break, meaning we’ve hit the “halfway” point of the season. At this point, we can typically take a step back and get a good look at baseball thus far this season and maybe get a good prediction of how it’s going to end. Of course, anything can happen between now and October, and I am neither an expert nor am I clairvoyant. But I’m going to give a go at predicting some of the likely candidates to win the National League MVP at the end of the season. Last August I did the exact same thing (albeit with a month and a half more playing time to consider), and I correctly predicted the top five MVP finalists. So here is my early insight into potential 2017 MVP candidates.