The adjustments Daniel Murphy made at the plate that turned him into a playoff hero in 2015 with the Mets weren't just a short-sample mirage after all. He continued to hit balls harder (career-high 38.2 percent hard-hit rate), higher (career-high 41.9 percent flyball rate) and farther (career-high average of 280.6 feet on flyballs) than he ever had before, resulting in -- you guessed it -- a career year that landed him in second place in NL MVP voting. Pitchers weren't able to find a hole in his new approach as the season progressed either, as his first half and second half splits were almost identical, right down to the .985 OPS in both halves. The only thing that slowed him down was a leg injury that limited him to 55 games in the second half, but he was still healthy enough to hit .438 in 16 postseason at-bats. Nagging lower-body injuries are definitely a red flag for a 31-year-old second baseman, especially one that didn't really have a step to lose, and the 21 games Murphy played at first base last year may have been a precursor to a more permanent move, especially if Ryan Zimmerman never returns to form. The offense Murphy supplied in 2016 is more than adequate for a shift down the defensive spectrum, though, even if it's taken on faith that he'll have some regression in his performance, despite the strong indications to the contrary.
Murphy will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic, Jamal Collier of MLB.com reports. He and Ian Kinsler are the only second basemen listed on Team USA's roster, so expect Murphy to see plenty of action during the tournament. Coming off a career season that ended with a whimper due to a glute strain, the most important thing for Murphy from a fantasy perspective will be simply staying healthy.
Nationals trainers have told Murphy that the upper leg problems he encountered late in 2016 could recur, Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post reports. Murphy at least emphasized that he's healthy now, per MASN's Mark Zuckerman, but this is still worrying news. Murphy missed 13 straight games to end the 2016 season and hit .150 during the NLDS. He bounced back to hit .438 in the NLCS, but recurring leg injuries for 31-year-old second basemen whom already had limited range on defense are not ideal. He's still one of the top players in fantasy, it might just be wise to have a backup in line.
Murphy went 3-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBI in Sunday's Game 2 win over the Dodgers. He's now 4-for-6 in the series, as the time off he received at the end of September and into October appears to have done Murphy a world of good. He'll need to stay sharp Monday back in Los Angeles against Kenta Maeda, a pitcher he didn't face during the regular season.
Murphy (upper leg) is in the lineup for Game 1 of the NLDS on Friday, Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic reports. Murphy missed a good chunk of September with an upper leg injury, but as expected, the All-Star is back to full health and ready to contribute to the Nationals' postseason run. He'll man second base and bat cleanup against Dodgers' starter Clayton Kershaw.
GM Mike Rizzo expects Murphy (upper leg) to be ready for the Nationals' playoff opener Friday, CSN's Chase Hughes reports. Murphy's injury limited him to just three at-bats after Sept. 17, but the Nationals have been, and apparently remain, optimistic that he will be on the field when the team kicks off postseason play Friday against the Dodgers.