Marcus Stroman returns to Duke for his college graduation

On Saturday, the Washington Nationals made an obvious decision, exercising the two-year option they held on general manager Mike Rizzo’s contract. Rizzo’s tenure has largely been a success: he’s led the Nationals from a lengthy rebuild to four consecutive winning seasons and counting. But rather than restate his record and all that jazz, let’s mark the occasion by looking at his five best and worst moves.

Rizzo’s five best

1. The draft. Is this cheating? Probably. But under Rizzo’s watch, the Nationals have selected Stephen Strasburg , Bryce Harper , Anthony Rendon , andLucas Giolito . Quibble all you want with how much credit Rizzo should receive for those picks — or for grabbing a pair of generational talents, and two others who went later than expected — but it’s impossible to rank this collection lower than first.

You can play all three of these studs in a lineup with tonight’s top pitcher and still have nearly $3,000 to spend at the other positions. There’s no guarantee all three break out tonight, but it’s definitely worth trying in a couple of tournament lineups.
Starting Pitchers

Adam Conley ($8,300, $8,200)

If you’ve listened to our podcast at all, you know we like to give Chris Towers a hard time for his Conley fandom. I’m not as certain the young lefty has the same upside, but he has plenty of it against this matchup. The Phillies .273 wOBA and 24.1 percent K rate vs. LHP are just as bad as they sound. Conley is a solid favorite and the Phillies are projected to score the third least amount of runs.

Kenta Maeda ($8,800, $9,700)

On one hand, Maeda does have a good matchup against an Angels team that sports a .127 ISO vs. RHP. On the other, the Angels simply do not strike out. Maeda has the best shot of getting to seven innings and is the biggest favorite of the night. Only his strikeout potential holds him down. The discount price on FanDuel will make me take a hard look at him, even without the big strikeout potential.

Park’s power is no surprise; scouts knew he had impressive raw strength all along. The reservations about Park revolved around the fear that his swing-and-miss tendencies would be exacerbated by a move to the big leagues. Sure enough, his rate statistics resemble that of a traditional three-true-outcomes slugger. He’s K’d in more than 30 percent of his plate appearances, he’s walked in another nine percent, and he’s homered in more than seven percent. Add it all together, and that’s almost half his trips to the plate ending without a ball in play.
Rank Player Three True Outcome %
1 David Wright 54.1
2 Jason Castro 52.8
3 Bryce Harper 51.9
4 Joc Pederson 51.3
5 Steven Souza 50.4
13 Byung-ho Park 47.5

Predictably, Park’s contact woes have been as dire as expected. His 64.9 percent contact rate is among the lowest dozen or so in the game, and he’s whiffed on nearly 60 percent of his swings against breaking balls. Combine his inability to put the bat on the ball with his patient (but not always disciplined) approach, and you have the recipe for a lot of strikeouts. Park has been able to balance his strikeouts thus far by walking and bopping, yet his .324 ISO is certain to drop — last season, Bryce Harperled the majors with a .319 ISO — and the amount of the drop will determine where he falls on te average-to-above-average DH spectrum.

The Blue Jays took a quick 1-0 lead in the second inning Sunday on a Michael Saunders single. In the third, with his team still leading 1-0, Blue Jays skipper John Gibbons was ejected by home plate umpire Dan Iassogna for arguing balls and strikes. To the action footage:

Gibbons thought the 0-2 pitch to Rougned Odor should have been called a strike, and you know what? He’s probably right. Here is the PitchFX strike zone plot of the at-bat, courtesy of Brooks Baseball:

Pitch No. 3 is the pitch in question. Ultimately it did not matter on the field. Odor struck out two pitches later, except this time Gibbons was a spectator in the clubhouse after getting tossed.

Rays @ Blue Jays

This is partially for the BvP crowd, with the Jays having a ton of success against Happ in the past. The Rays haven’t been as good as you’d expect against RHP, but their .180 ISO is seventh in baseball and they get a huge park factor shift in the Rogers Centre. Any RHH in the top six in the order are in play, but it’s more of a tournament play than cash.
Lineups

I’m going to offer my early take on a cash game lineup, but of course you should always check out our Sportsline projections for lineup changes right up to lock. Also, check out our podcast on iTunes for extended thoughts on each slate from Chris Towers, Mike McClure and myself.

The hypothetical question about what Evan Gattis’ value would be if he were catcher-eligible again is about to get real.

Panthers pack six jerseys for Cam Newton to take to Super Bowl

“If we’re rained on pregame, we’d switch them after pregame for the first half,” Miles said Friday. “And then if it rained in the first half we’d switch them at halftime for the second half.”

Miles admittedly was disappointed the jerseys are black. The Panthers have a career record of 5-0 in the playoffs at home in white and 0-2 in the black.

As the designated home team, the AFC champion Denver Broncos had the option. They chose white.

“They wore their colors all in their home playoff games,” Miles said of Denver. “Our white thing is a home superstition. It’s kind of weird they’re preventing us from wearing white.”

It was weird until Miles was reminded the Broncos are 0-4 in Super Bowls wearing orange jerseys. He still was disappointed.

“The last two [playoff games] in black we got our butts kicked,” he quipped.

Miles has had a busy week. It began with getting a truckload of equipment — blocking sleds, weights, etc. — out Tuesday for the cross-country drive. The truck is expected to arrive Saturday. The rest will be shipped on the chartered plane that leaves Sunday.

Even though the game is in Santa Clara, California, Miles packed winter wear and raincoats. The equipment manager for the San Francisco 49ers “told me it rains every two out of three days.”

“I have a winter trunk packed, too,” Miles said. “We’re prepared. We’re not going to be packed for Minnesota cold, but I have the nice baseball jackets packed.”

Without having taken a single snap in the NFL, former first-round pick Kevin White is already being compared to seven-time Pro Bowl receiver Andre Johnson.

“Kevin White was one of the better receivers I’ve seen coming out,” Chicago Bears receivers coach Curtis Johnson said Friday. “He reminded me of some of the guys I had in Miami. He reminded me of Andre Johnson. He’s very similar to him.

Undrafted Harvard tight end Ben Braunecker has a fallback plan in case he fails to make it in the NFL.

“Infectious disease [doctor],” Braunecker said on Sunday. “I’d like to be more research based. It’s what I love. It’s my passion.”