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We at Razzball realize that exporting our views across the country has damaging consequences on the blogosphere. To help make amends, we are reaching out to leading team blogs and featuring their locally blogged answers to pressing 2014 fantasy baseball questions regarding their team. We feel this approach will be fresher, more sustainable, and require less energy consumption (for us anyway). The 2014 Nationals Fantasy Baseball Preview comes courtesy of Patrick Reddington from Federal Baseball.

1) Bryce Harper is still very young and incredibly talented, but should his recent injuries and struggles against left-handed pitching be a concern for fantasy owners who plan to draft him highly in 2014?

Davey Johnson seemed fairly sure that Harper would figure left-handed pitchers out when he talked about Harp’s struggles against lefties last season. It’s probably important to note that as young as Harper is and as quickly as he’s risen, it’s probably especially tough for him to be all-of-a-sudden facing MLB-caliber left-handers. Harper’s a smart hitter though and with all the information out there he has to know how lefties are attacking him/where they’re pitching him, so we’ll see how he adjusts going forward. Also, based on his recent comments about his knee being an issue before the 2013 campaign even began, I’m wondering how to view everything he did this past season.

That being said, more than a few people I talk baseball with said at some point last season that if Harper wasn’t Bryce Harper, he might be a candidate for a platoon as bad as he was against lefties early last season. It was also a tough season for the other lefties in the Nats’ lineup (Denard Span and Adam LaRoche), however, so were the left-handed pitchers the Nats faced just particularly tough?

It’s a concern, no doubt, but as talented a hitter as he is, I think he’ll figure out lefties soon enough.

The knee injury has me a little more worried. They’re going to take their time getting him back into action this Spring, but he’s said that he probably should have stopped playing before he actually did last season because the knee was a real issue. Hopefully the 2013 campaign was a good learning experience for him to also figure out what he can and can’t play through so he doesn’t exacerbate injury issues again in the future.

2) Wilson Ramos provided a lot of value in 2013 as a fantasy catcher and Razzball considers him a nice sleeper for this season. What are some reasons you think he can carry that success into 2014?

If he can stay healthy, Ramos is going to be a great pickup because as it stands right now, he’s going to get the bulk of the innings and ABs for the Nationals in 2014. When he came back off the DL last season, the Nationals rode Ramos hard and they didn’t have much use for a backup catcher. Judging by their actions this winter, they intend to do the same this season. While everyone has been waiting for the Nationals to add another catcher to the mix, they (so far) have seemed perfectly willing to go with Ramos and the best of their backups who will fill in when necessary but aren’t expected to get a whole lot of ABs.

During the run Ramos put together down the stretch last year (.276/.307/.477, six doubles, 14 HRs in 251 PAs after July 4th), Davey Johnson was asked if he ever wondered what Ramos could do over a full season if he could stay healthy. He said, “It’s 100 RBIs and 28 bombs… Ramos is really a strong no.1, one of the best catchers in the league.” Take it for what it’s worth from Johnson, but he’s known as a pretty good judge of talent and if Ramos can stay in the lineup I think the Nats are expecting that sort of big season from him soon.

I think he really wants to prove something this year too. He came back determined to show he was durable last year and showed that he was capable of playing every day. He seems to have the Nationals convinced he’s got a big year coming up.

3) On paper, the Nationals have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, especially with the acquisition of Doug Fister. What do you predict will be the biggest story of the 2014 season among their starters?

Big story: Doug Fister finally being the right starter who pushes the Nationals over the top? I’m betting that’s what the Nationals are hoping after spending significantly more for fourth starters like Edwin Jackson in 2012 and Dan Haren last season and not getting the results they were hoping to from either. All the signs are there of Fister being the right fit for the Nationals’ rotation and the National League. Gio Gonzalez talked this weekend about adding Fister to the rotation being like, “…knowing that you just got the brand new car you wanted for Christmas.”

I’m really interested to see how he improves with what should be a better infield defense than he had in Detroit. I love the upward trend of his ground ball percentage (41.3, 47.1, 47.5, 51.0, 54.3% from ’09-’13) over the last five years and think he is the kind of pitcher Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo loves, a 6’8”, ground ball/fastball pitcher with good command. The last big starter Rizzo acquired, Gio Gonzalez, did just about exactly what the Nationals expected in his first season in D.C. With Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann another year older and wiser and now Fister added to the mix, I think anyone who follows the Nats and enjoys good pitching is really excited about the upcoming season and if Fister puts them over the top he’s going to be the big story.

4) Anthony Rendon got the call in 2013 for the Nationals. Which prospects in the Nats’ farm system should fantasy owners be excited about for 2014 and beyond?

I’m not too sure there are going to be any big prospects coming up this year like Harper and Rendon in the past two seasons. I think Taylor Jordan and Nathan Karns might work their way back up again after debuting last season and Sammy Solis has a good shot at seeing some time in the majors if the lefties the Nationals have struggle at all. I think A.J. Cole has just about the right mix of stuff and innings on his arm that he might get a look at some point this season depending on the health of the pitchers in the majors. Blake Treinen‘s another pitcher whose name keeps coming up when I’m talking to people who follow the Nationals’ organization. I think it’s going to be mostly pitching prospects impacting the Nationals this season though, unless a Matt Skole or Steven Souza, Jr. go on a tear and there’s a need at the major league level.

As for the future, there’s no bigger prospect in the Nats’ system than Lucas Giolito and this will be his first full year back following Tommy John so it will be interesting to see what he does when gets a chance to put together a full season’s worth of innings. I’m really excited to see if Matt Purke can take the next step now that his shoulder issues seem to be behind him. He was a first round talent who fell to the third because of injury concerns the Nationals were willing to deal with and I’m interested to see if that investment pays off. This will be a big season for his development and with his age and contract (major league deal so he’s on the 40-Man) he’s someone I think could move quickly if he’s anything like the talent that scouts thought he was. But I think all eyes in the organization are going to be on Giolito this year.

5) Which Bryce Harper related scenario is most likely to occur in 2014?

A) He hits 30 homers and steals 15 bases

B) He has less than 500 PA for the second year in a row

C) The Nats fail miserably at an attempt to impress their star player with a “Book of Mormon Giveaway Day”

I’m going to go with A. I think Harper’s going to have another level of breakout season this year. I think he was frustrated last year that his body wouldn’t let him do what he thinks he’s capable of doing and I think he’s going to start the year ITBSOHL and really put together a big season. I don’t think 30 HRs and 15 SB are a stretch for Harper at all if he’s healthy for the whole season.

From Around The Web

  1. Peets says:
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    I also hope Harper will breakout this year.
    In my mock with current keeper league, with keeping Stanton & Votto already,
    I could draft Harper but lose Longoria or Wright which 3B is not deep.

    Thoughts appreciated. Thanks.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I don’t think you can go wrong with either Harper or Longoria. I’d probably roll with Harper, to give yourself 1 CI and 2 OF, and maybe target a cheaper option at 3B later like Arenado.

      • Peets says:
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        @Mike: Agree & thanks, especially it’s keeper league. Harper is one of the best potential talent player in years. (Then hope I really can draft him….)

  2. Brian says:
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    Similar question. I think Harper will be the second best player, and soon. In a keeper, I have an offer to get him for goldschmidt and cano. Too much? I would add Profar as a keeper with Harper. Or, should I trade can’t for hosmer? Or stand pat (also keep Machado, Myers, and puig)

    • Dave F says:
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      @Brian:

      I’m not sure that I would trade EITHER Cano or Goldy for Harper straight up, much less together. Especially given your current keeper situation. You have 2 stud OFs already. OF is the deepest position in the game. I would stay away from this trade if I were you.

      • Brian says:
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        What do you think of cano, though? Or with my youngsters, should I keep his solid, albeit probably smaller production?.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      That’s a big price tag…arguably 2 first rounders for one…Goldy and Cano put you in a better postion to win this year, and that should be the goal even in a keeper. Nice team by the way…solid keepers.

    • Jay

      Jay says:
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      @Brian: I would trade Cano for Harper in a second in a keeper.

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        @Jay: agreed, but I read it as he has to give up Goldy too, which is too rich for me. You still do it for both?

        • Jay

          Jay says:
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          @Mike: nope.

  3. Brian says:
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    Or, trade can’t for Eric hosmer? Cockcroft ranked hosmer tenth in his keeper rankings. Insane?

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I’d hold. Cano is the type of player that can bring in more than Hosmer IMO.

      • Brian says:
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        Wow, advice from Mike Schmidt! Wht I was thinking. Can’t probably has three years left of top four runs value, at least. Don’t want to fall into that keeper league thing where you have all young guys who don’t own out

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Haha…sometimes things like contracts/salaries come into play in keeper leagues, but in a vacuum I’d rather have Cano. Youth is great, but it’s not like Cano is 35.

  4. Dave F says:
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    I’ll take Cano over Harper in a keeper league. Cano probably has 4-5 really good years left. 2B is an absolute mess, and I doubt that changes in the next few years. Outfield is always the deepest position, and it’s not like Harper doesn’t have his issues (as detailed in this article).

  5. Brian says:
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    What’s a bigger ripoff, trade Goldie and cano for Harper, or when I traded my upper deck rookie Griffey for the Michael jordan baseball card?

    I’m good at acquiring assets, but I’m a classic over thinker.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      All my cards are worth s***.

      • Brian says:
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        Most of mine are, Barry Bonds rookies are okay.

  6. Ghost of the Disappeared says:
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    Mike: These are the best tool on RazzBall… They make ya think. And they don’t do permanent brain damage to ya, either – like the daily dose of the LE is like to do.

    The Nats are the best looking team on paper going in – IMO A pretty blend on both sides H&P.
    The true beauty of it is, you are not fully paying up for that complete team package numbers pump yet.

    1: Your right making him your #1 question. He is a funny bunny in terms of the charts… I’ve seen him drafted below double digits – in front of Jones, Braun and other worthies. That is too low IMO… He is a legit target right after the turn though… I don’t think, unless, there is a particular injury, you can go forward assuming he is a training room queen this early in his career – assume good health… He has the same risk as others in my opinion. Only adding, that he has not fully blossomed, so we are paying for the come. We are assuming (there is that word, again) he is destined to be a top player – BUT, WHAT IF HE ISN’T ??? YIKES!!! I’m not paying 1st round prices, because of this fact – I will consider him in the 2nd – depending on who is still there. And his BA must move north for him to be in the elite.

    2. Ramos at Q2 is perfect. Lobaton will play some – so how many ABs does that take away from Ramos? I love his numbers BA/HRs… I will never see him… I will only draft a catcher if Rosie Rocky drops too far or I am made to by the frigging draft software. He is a great late at 219 ESPN… He will be long gone before I press the Catcher button

    3. What is there not to like there. The story will be they have 3 of them that have sterling years and the other do the job they are paid to do… They get 80 plus wins as a staff. On the way to a 100 win season.

    4. You do know that Jay Wrong has gone gay for this man. Me, I think, he’s just another bimbo trollop in Jay’s long conga line of them. This one will break our Jay’s tender heart and bank – like the last one did. Why do you think he works 3 jobs??? Right, he still paying off for the last one. When will he learn?

    5. Answer C

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Thanks Ghost…

      I’m with you. I like Ramos, but with all the sleeper flags out there on him there’s no way I’ll snag him.

      I love Rendon at 2B, a little less at the hot corner, which could be in his future if Zimm moves across the diamond.

      Some questions about Harper, but so much talent!

      • Ghost of the Disappeared says:
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        @Mike:

        You too on Rendon… I’m not rating him in ESPN… I’ll take Peralta who is buried low low on ESPN for MI or Escobar… Dosier is my “hots for” 2nd baseman – if I can get there in time… He is the poor man’s Kippnis… Kinda like Darryl Hamilton was to Ricky…

        Does Dosier have double double digit power this year plus the same in SBs???? It keeps waking me up at night in a hot sweat…

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          I like Dozier, still prefer Rendon though :)

  7. Scooterboy says:
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    Just completed a draft on ESPN. Tried to follow Greys ratings as best I could. Constructive criticism is greatly appreciated. I was going to go for pitching in round seven, but saw Pujols staring me in the face, and couldn’t resist that pick. Did I wait too long on pitching? I really like this team, but I’m not an expert. Let me know what you think please. It’s a 8 team, H2H, 5×5 league.

    C Wilson Ramos Round 16 Pick 124
    1B Paul Goldschmitt Round 1 Pick 5
    2B Ian Kinsler Round 6 Pick 44
    3B Ryan Zimmerman Round 5 Pick 37
    SS Jean Segura Round 9 Pick 69
    MI Jedd Gyorko Round 19 Pick 149
    CI Albert Pujols Round 7 Pick 53
    OF Bryce Harper Round 2 Pick 12
    OF Ryan Braun Round 3 Pick 21
    OF Jose Bautista Round 4 Pick 28
    OF Alex Gordon Round 11 Pick 85
    OF Coco Crisp Round 21 Pick 165
    U Anthony Rizzo Round 14 Pick 108

    P Gio Gonzalez Round 8 Pick 60
    P Homer Bailey Round 10 Pick 76
    P Alex Cobb Round 12 Pick 92
    P Julio Teheran Round 15 Pick 117
    P Sonny Gray Round 18 Pick 140
    P Tony Cingrani Round 20 Pick 156
    P Trevor Rosenthal Round 13 Pick 101
    P Glen Perkins Round 17 Pick 133
    P Steve Cishek Round 22 Pick 172

    Bench Zack Wheeler
    Bench Will Middlebrooks
    Bench Fernando Rodney

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Real nice team. I like the cheap speed there in Crisp. Great value for Pujols and Gyorko. Pitching staff is fine. Love Bailey, Cobb. I did a mock last night for S’s and G’s and ended up with almost identical staff. I’m a big Teheran fan.

      • Scooterboy says:
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        @Mike: Of course the ESPN standings, predicted I came in last.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          haha, yeah mine too. since you are valuing players differently, that’s going to happen, but you knew that :)

    • Andrew A says:
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      @Scooterboy:

      Segura 69, Braun 21, WOW

      • Mike

        Mike says:
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        yeah those too

      • Scooterboy says:
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        @Andrew A: Yeah, I was surprised they were available at those spots also.

  8. David says:
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    “That being said, more than a few people I talk baseball with said at some point last season that if Harper wasn’t Bryce Harper, he might be a candidate for a platoon as bad as he was against lefties early last season. ”

    With all due respect, who exactly were you talking with? He was awful against lefties, but nobody is platooned after one bad year against them. Especially at his age.

  9. Gern Cranium says:
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    Karns is no longer a Nat ;)

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Good catch Gern! These are written in January and then trickle out live in February and March, so recent stuff slips through the cracks sometimes.

  10. Ghost of the Disappeared says:
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    Mike: See that Puig reported in a 250 plus… Can we say, Panda II … Hard to steal bases and play good OF carrying a built in backpack around… If it is muscle, then there is THAT OTHER CONCERN???

    This is not a good thing long term IMO…. It may be OK this year, but, warning flags are in order IMO…

    He been spending his bonus money packing in deep fried epanadas or worse. Fatsos and BB don’t mix – except at DH and 1st …

    Thoughts????

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      haha…I honestly don’t worry about it, but then again I’ve never tasted an epanada…

      • Wallpaper Paterson says:
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        @Mike: empanadas are good. try one someday.

        • Mike

          Mike says:
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          Nice…will do

          • kingforaday151 says:
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            @Mike: Duck Empanadas = Mike Trout’s fantasy value… Nice piece on the Nats, it’ll be interesting to see how this season works out for them. They were pretty hyped as a top team going in to last season with a roster of fantasy studs, but didn’t exactly pan out for them.

            • Mike

              Mike says:
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              Thanks…I agree. I’m wondering if Denard Span might be a sneaky play this year.

  11. ryan says:
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    In my 20 team h2h dyansty league, I just dealT jennings for kris bryant and brian wilson. Btw this we count holds in this league. Anyway was this a good deal for me? Btw I had the option of getting addison russell or jose abreu instead of bryant. Did I choose the right player? I figure bryant was the more polished hitter and seemed the safest.

    c evan gattis
    1b miguel cabrera
    2b brandon phillips
    3b evan longoria
    ss jurickson profar
    lf justin upton
    cf shane victorino
    rf michael cuddyer
    util prince fielder
    bn kris bryant
    bn carl crawford/neil walker/michael morse/

    sp clayton kershaw
    sp yu darvish
    sp cliff lee
    rp jose veras
    rp sean doolittle
    rp dan delarosa
    p zack wheeler
    p dan straily
    p tanner roark
    bn matt belisle
    bn charlie morton
    bn garrett richards
    bn robbie erlin/mart thornton

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I like Russell a lot, but Bryant would have been my choice too.

  12. Kobayashi Maru says:
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    Is Roark worth a stash in a dynasty league?

    • OaktownSteve says:
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      @Kobayashi Maru:

      No but he is a nice stream option in deeper leagues if and when he gets starts. The ceiling on him is low. Nice pitcher and adds good rotational depth for Nats IRL.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      agree with Steve

  13. Fantasy Newb says:
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    I’m trying to decide who I should keep in my categories league. I can only keep 7. Who do you think I should keep?
    I have:
    Lucroy
    Hosmer
    Dan Murphy
    Longoria
    Hardy
    Stanton
    Billy Hamilton
    Bogaerts
    Castellanos
    Chapman
    Shelby Miller
    Gerrit Cole
    Colon
    Wacha
    Iwakuma

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Longoria, Stanton, Bogaerts, Hamilton, Cole, Wacha, Chapman

  14. PBMax says:
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    In a h2h, 5OF, MI, CI, 3 Util. Keep 6 of these seven: CDavis, AJones, Myers, Kershaw, Votto, Goldschmidt, Segura. Really deciding between myers and seugra. Any thoughts much appreciated

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      I ‘d go Myers. I’d rather walk into the draft with two solid outfielders…and I’d be shopping Segura to a team that is keeper poor if that’s possible

  15. John says:
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    5×5 dynasty, 9 P spots

    Won last year so in win now mode.

    If you had Latos, Cliff Lee, Liriano, Quintana, Lynn, Iwakuma, Fister, Burnett as SP
    &
    Koji, Romo, and Frieri

    Since I have some SP injuries, would you trade Cody Allen for Niese?

    I am thinking he could be worth more later on if Axford falls or I need someone like Niese to get me innings since my SPs are so dangerous with AJ, Latos, Quintana and Iwa.

    Thanks man

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Yup, if it helps you win now, I’m all for trading relievers.

      One thing I’ll throw out there though, since we both seem to think Allen could close eventually in Cleveland, could you afford to trade one of the 3 guys you have that are currently closers and try to land a better arm than Niese? I feel like you can max out on their value and get a better SP while you would be trading Allen when he is still trending up…just my two cents.

      • John says:
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        @Mike: Good idea, thanks

  16. B says:
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    For anyone not published (since I can access Grey’s and others’ rankings): what are your thoughts on a LaRoche bounce back this season? Thanks in advance.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      BABIP was second lowest of his career, so I could see some AVG coming back, but the power may be fading naturally with age. I’m not comfortable expecting more than 20 homers from him but I don’t think he’ll hit .237 again either.

  17. Shake N Bacon says:
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    I traded Longoria and Prince last year for Harper, Kipnis and Billy Butler in my keeper league. I’m hoping Harper has a breakout season this year!

    Ramos and Fister are definitely on my “try to draft” list this year. Slowly turning into a Nat’s fan.

    • Mike

      Mike says:
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      Good stuff

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