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The Candidates:Erik Gonzalez Whitey Herzog Jersey , Kevin Newman, Cole TuckerThe departure of veteran Jordy Mercer has left a void at shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.Pittsburgh acquired Erik Gonzalez from the Cleveland Indians on Nov. 14. He posted 0.6 WAR over 81 games in a utility role last season.The 27-year-old hit .296/.329/.450 with 31 doubles, 11 home runs and 12 steals in Triple-A during his last full season in the minors in 2016, so he does have some offensive potential.He's just 1-for-14 with six strikeouts so far this spring.Gonzalez will need to hold off prospect Kevin Newman, who hit .302/.350/.407 with 36 extra-base hits and 28 steals in 109 games in Triple-A last year.The 25-year-old is 3-for-11 with one double and four strikeouts.With that, the door could be swinging open for fellow prospect Cole Tucker, who has gone 3-for-11 with a double this spring. He's yet to play above Double-A but could be an option by midseason if no one else seizes the job.Early Winners:Cole TuckerEarly Losers:Erik Gonzalez, Kevin NewmanSan Francisco Giants: Outfield8 of 9Gerardo ParraJamie Schwaberow/Getty ImagesThe Candidates:Steven Duggar, Drew Ferguson, Chris Shaw, Austin Slater, Mac Williamson, Mike Gerber, Cameron Maybin, Gerardo ParraThe San Francisco Giants cast a wide net this offseason in their search for outfield help.Veterans Gerardo Parra and Cameron Maybin both signed minor league deals, jumping at the chance to sign on where they have a clear path to winning regular playing time.Parra is off to a nice start at 4-for-13 with one double and one home run. On the other hand, Maybin has gone just 2-for-19 with six strikeouts.Former Detroit Tigers prospect Mike Gerber was an under-the-radar waiver claim in December, and he's gone 5-for-9 with one double and three runs scored. His ability to play center field makes him a dark horse to win a spot.Slugger Chris Shaw (5-for-17, 2B http://www.stlouiscardinalsteamshop.com/authentic-marcell-ozuna-jersey , 2 HR) will get a long look in left field, Mac Williamson (4-for-16, 2B, HR) is the top 40-man roster option in right field, and Steven Duggar (0-for-3, 2 BB) showed enough in center field last year to warrant a longer look.Rule 5 pick Drew Ferguson (1-for-14) and Austin Slater (3-for-14, 5 K) appear to be facing uphill battles.Early Winners:Chris Shaw, Gerardo ParraEarly Losers:Drew Ferguson, Cameron Maybin, Austin SlaterWashington Nationals: No. 5 Starter9 of 9Jeremy HellicksonJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesThe Candidates:Erick Fedde, Jeremy Hellickson, Joe Ross, Henderson AlvarezThe Washington Nationals brought back Jeremy Hellickson on Feb. 6 on a one-year, $1.3 million deal that could earn him another $4 million worth of incentives.The 31-year-old went 5-3 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 91.1 innings over 19 starts last season, and he's allowed just three hits and one earned run with seven strikeouts in five innings this spring.A healthy Joe Ross is his biggest competition for the job after he spent the bulk of 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery.Ross has looked sharp so far, allowing six hits and one earned run in 5.2 innings, but with one minor league option remaining, he could be sent to Triple-A to further shake off the rust.Former top prospect Erick Fedde (5.1 IP, 12 H Orlando Cepeda Jersey , 7 ER) and non-roster invitee Henderson Alvarez (4.0 IP, 4 H, 3 ER) are also in the mix.Early Winners:Jeremy Hellickson, Joe RossEarly Losers:Erick FeddeAll stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. The Los Angeles Angels, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals appeared to accept that this isn't their year."Bryce [Harper] is not going anywhere. I believe in this team," Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post.Rizzo apparently didn't believe in it to the point of making additions to the roster, though, and he even traded reliever Brandon Kintzler to a fellow National League contender in the Cubs.The Cardinals turned Tommy Pham into prospects in a trade with the Rays, opening a spot for Tyler O'Neill on the big league roster. They also sent off Luke Voit and Sam Tuivailala in small-scale moves while failing to add anyone of short-term significance.And it looks like the Angels will squander another year of Mike Trout.They traded catcher Martin Maldonado and second baseman Ian Kinsler, both impending free agents, but made no notable additions.The San Francisco Giants also seem to be cooked.They didn't get rid of any veteran pieces, but they also didn't add anyone to a team that is .500 and may have just lost Johnny Cueto to Tommy John surgery. MVPs of the WeekHitter: Jonathan Schoop, Baltimore OriolesStats: 11-for-29, 1 2B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 6 RAfter struggling to a .197/.242/.345 line with just eight home runs and 21 RBI over the first three-plus months of the season, Schoop has caught fire.He's hitting .360/.356/.700 with nine home runs and 19 RBI in July鈥攅nough to make him a hot commodity at the trade deadline, with the Brewers getting a deal done.Always a promising offensive player Keith Hernandez Jersey , Schoop exploded for a 122 OPS+ with 32 home runs and 105 RBI last season en route to 5.2 WAR and a 12th-place finish in AL MVP voting.Second basemen have provided a brutal .242/.297/.362 line for the Brewers this year, so Schoop will be a welcome addition as they look to secure a postseason spot. Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka, New York YankeesStats: 1 GS, W, 9.0 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 KWhile the Yankees were proactive in addressing their starting rotation with the additions of J.A. Happ and Lance Lynn, a strong finish to the season by Masahiro Tanaka would go a long way.The 29-year-old twirled his third career shutout last Monday against the Rays, and he's pitched to a 2.29 ERA in three starts since returning from the hamstring injuries that cost him roughly a month.All told, he's 8-2 with a 4.09 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 92 strikeouts in 92.1 innings.Looking ahead, Tanaka showed in October how much of an impact he can make when he's on top of his game, posting a 0.90 ERA over 20 innings in three postseason starts.A similar run this year could push the Yankees over the top. Video Highlights of the WeekLongest Home Run: Nolan Arenado, Colorado Rockies (454 feet)Nolan Arenado has hit an NL-leading 28 home runs, including three in his last four games and eight in July.His 26th blast came Friday in the form of this towering 454-foot shot off Athletics lefty Sean Manaea.While that was the longest home run of the season for Arenado, it checked in as just the seventh-longest by Rockies hitters.In fact, Carlos Gonzalez (473 feet http://www.stlouiscardinalsteamshop.com/authentic-marcell-ozuna-jersey , 461, 455), Ian Desmond (472, 459) and Trevor Story (464, 459) have multiple homers that have gone farther.The Rockies rank eighth in the majors and second in the NL with 136 home runs. Best Defensive Play: Jackie Bradley Jr., Boston Red SoxJackie Bradley Jr. is having a rough season offensively, hitting just .213 with a 76 OPS+ and 28 extra-base hits in 357 plate appearances.He remains, however, a human highlight reel in center field.The 28-year-old has been featured in our "best defensive play" section before, and he was at it again with this tremendous catch in the left-center field gap on what looked like a sure double.Bradley's 9.1 UZR/150 is the fourth-best mark among qualified center fielders and speaks to his elite instincts and tremendous range.The Red Sox are the highest-scoring team in baseball with 5.3 runs per game, so they can afford to sacrifice some offense for an elite glove at a premium position. Must-See Upcoming MatchupHouston Astros vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (Friday-Sunday)Justin VerlanderRob Leiter/Getty ImagesNothing like a World Series rematch to gauge where two contenders are heading into the final two months of the season.Last time the Astros and Dodgers squared off, it was Game 7 of another thrilling Fall Classic, and both teams have title aspirations again this year.The Astros rotation is lined up perfectly for this series, with Justin Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr. and Gerrit Cole slated to throw.The Dodgers will counter with Alex Wood, Kenta Maeda and Walker Buehler. Ace Clayton Kershaw will make his next start Thursday against the Brewers.This series won't have a huge impact on the standings, but it will be an excellent barometer, and it should provide fans with a postseason atmosphere. All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted.

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