- - Monday, June 25, 2018

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida | Max Scherzer is the closest thing the Nationals have to a sure thing — when he steps on the mound and when it comes making the National League roster for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game next month.

Scherzer, who is in the midst of one of his best seasons — leading the National League in wins and strikeouts and posting an ERA of 2.09 — is a lock as an All-Star, but he’s almost certainly going to be joined by a couple of Washington teammates when the MLB showcase comes to the nation’s capital the third week of July.

Nationals Park, which opened 10 years ago, will be the center of the baseball universe for several days, hosting the All-Star Game on Tuesday, July 17, the Home Run Derby a day earlier and the Futures Game the day before that. The Walter E. Washington Convention Center will host FanFest from July 13-17.

Here’s the latest on which Nationals are likely to join Scherzer at the Midsummer Classic.

Is Harper an All-Star?

This would have be an absurd question in early May.

Fan favorite Bryce Harper got off to a torrid start at the plate in April and still leads the National League in homers with 19 through Sunday and also had 46 RBI.

But the left-handed slugger was hitting .219 and had only one homer in the month of June through Sunday. Harper said last week he will take part in the Home Run Derby only if he makes the National League roster for the game.

That will most likely happen in a vote of the fans. Harper is still one of the most exciting players in the game, has huge power and is great drawing card for the All-Star Game in his own park. He was third among outfielders in voting as of Monday, with 10 days left for voting.

“Bryce has the home run and RBI total. Despite the low batting average … he is going to be on this team,” said Phil Wood, a Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) analyst. “I think he is conscious of the fact it is his home park and he wants to do the best he can possibly do.”

Pencil Doolittle in, too

Scherzer is a good pick right now to throw the first pitch of the game as the starting pitcher for the host league, but Nationals closer Sean Doolittle is quietly having a great season himself.

Scherzer has won the Cy Young Award the last two seasons in the National League and won it once in the American League. The right-hander is slated to start Tuesday afternoon against the Tampa Bay Rays in the second of a quick two-game interleague series. Scherzer needs 11 strikeouts to reach 1,000 with the Nationals.

Doolittle is having an All-Star season, too. He has 21 saves in 22 tries and an ERA of 1.80.

On the bubble

Third baseman Anthony Rendon and shortstop Trea Turner are decent candidates for the National League squad.

Rendon (.288, nine homers) has been on a tear the past few weeks but he has played in just 56 games through Sunday since missing time with a toe injury, and doesn’t have the numbers of some other third basemen.

Turner is one of the few everyday players with the Nationals who has not been on the disabled list in 2018.

He is among the league leaders in steals with 21 and was hitting .266 in games through Sunday, but shortstop is a loaded position. He may find himself enjoying a few days of vacation back home in Florida during the break.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a roster laden with Nats,” Wood said.

No chance: Strasburg

Right-handed pitcher Stephen Strasburg (6-6, 3.46) had some good numbers in the first two months of the season. But the often-hurt hurler has been on the disabled list for several weeks with right shoulder inflammation.

Martinez to be on Roberts’ staff

Nationals manager Dave Martinez has no homers or saves this season, but he will still be in uniform as a coach for the National League team, which will be managed by David Roberts of the Dodgers.

Roberts gets the honor since the Dodgers won the National League title last season. It’s tradition for the manager of the host city to take part as a coach, and Martinez confirmed Monday that he has been asked by Roberts to be part of the staff.

“I feel honored,” he said before Monday’s game at Tampa Bay.

Futures Game prospects

The Futures Game includes at least one top prospect from every organization as the U.S. faces the world with some of the top players in the minor leagues on hand. The Nationals have several standouts and perhaps the best candidate to make the U.S. squad is infielder Carter Kieboom, the younger brother of Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom.

Carter Kieboom was promoted last week to Double-A Harrisburg from the Single-A Potomac Nationals. He hit .302 at Potomac and .350 in his first four games with Harrisburg.

Pitcher Austin Voth is another candidate for the U.S. team. He was 4-4 with an ERA of 4.06 in his first 13 starts for Triple-A Syracuse.


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