Starting lineups: Nats vs. Astros and Marlins in West Palm Beach (updated)

James Wood spring training 1

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Well, it’s going to be a long day for the Nationals at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches as they play a split doubleheader against the Astros and Marlins. The first game, a 12:05 p.m. start on MASN, will have the Nats as the road team before they are the home team for the nightcap at 6:05 p.m.

Dan Kolko and Kevin Frandsen will be on the call of the first game with coverage starting at noon.

Davey Martinez and the Nationals brass spent a good amount of time yesterday figuring out how they were going to fill out their lineup cards for the two games, keeping in mind they have an early bus for the three-hour ride to Fort Myers on Sunday morning.

The first lineup may leave a lot to be desired from the fans watching on MASN back home, who were hoping to see a lot of the top young prospects play on TV. A big name (figuratively and literally) they can look forward to seeing is James Wood, who is back in the lineup after getting an off day yesterday. He’ll play center field and bat third.

Lane Thomas, Victor Robles and Luis García Jr. are among the regulars playing the first game. Trevor Williams makes his second start after a strong first appearance Monday. Jordan Weems, Derek Law and Luis Perdomo may make appearances out of the bullpen.

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Top prospects headline Nats' Spring Breakout roster

Brady House Trey Lipscomb James Wood spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals announced their roster for the first-ever Spring Breakout game next week against the Mets in Port St. Lucie.

It includes 22 of their top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline, including nine of the top 10 and 12 of the top 15:

PITCHERS
Jarlin Susana, RHP, No. 10
Travis Sykora, RHP, No. 11
DJ Herz, LHP, No. 12
Jackson Rutledge, RHP, No. 15
Mitchell Parker, LHP, No. 22
Cole Henry, RHP, No. 25
Dustin Saenz, LHP, No. 29
Andrew Alvarez, LHP, NR
Lucas Knowles, LHP, NR
Andry Lara, RHP, NR

CATCHERS
Drew Millas, C, No. 20
Israel Pineda, C, No. 26
Maxwell Romero Jr., C, NR

INFIELDERS
Brady House, 3B, No. 3 (MLB No. 48)
Yohandy Morales, 3B, No. 5
Trey Lipscomb, 3B, No. 16
Kevin Made, SS, No. 23
Darren Baker, 2B, No. 27
T.J. White, INF, No. 30
Armando Cruz, INF, NR

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Crews hits first homer, Corbin continues cutter work in win

Dylan Crews spring training

JUPITER, Fla. – Dylan Crews has grabbed a lot of attention at Nationals spring training, and rightfully so as last summer’s No. 2 overall pick. But it’s been James Wood who has taken a lot of the spotlight with the highlight reel he has put together so far in camp.

It was only a matter of time before Crews joined him.

The Nationals’ top prospect finally hit his first home run in Grapefruit League play this afternoon in what would be a 9-3 win over the Marlins at damp Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium.

“It felt pretty good,” Crews said of his first dinger. “I was hoping a little sooner than later, but it felt good to get a barrel in and help the team win today. I think the off-day helped a lot just physically and mentally just to kind of get the feet underneath me again. But yeah, it was a great day to day all around: pitching, defensively and the bats were really hot today. So it was a great day.”

Facing former Nats farmhand Jesús Luzardo, Crews hit a low-and-outside 3-1 changeup to straightaway center field. The ball came 102.4 mph off his bat and landed 393 feet away, just over the fence and out of reach of the glove of a leaping Victor Mesa Jr.

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Nats add outfielder Rosario on minor league deal

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JUPITER, Fla. – The Nationals made a new addition to camp this morning by signing veteran outfielder Eddie Rosario to a minor league contract, a source familiar with the deal confirmed.

Rosario, who still needs to pass a physical before his signing is official, is guaranteed $2 million if he makes the major league club and could earn up to $4 million with incentives.

The 31-year-old has primarily played left field, but has experience in all three outfield spots over the course of his nine-year career. He owns a career slash line of .268/.305/.460 with a .766 OPS with the Twins, Cleveland and the Braves.

A fourth-round pick out of high school in Puerto Rico by the Twins in 2010, Rosario signed a one-year, $8 million contract with Cleveland in February 2021 and was traded almost six months later at the deadline to Atlanta for Pablo Sandoval. Three months later, he helped lead the Braves to their first World Series title since 1995.

Rosario was named the National League Championship Series MVP during that October run after going 14-for-25 (.560) with a double, triple, three home runs and nine RBIs, including a walk-off single in Game 2, two four-hit games and a three-run home run in Game 6 to clinch the NL pennant.

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After late arrival, Williams efficient in spring debut

Trevor Williams red

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Trevor Williams was 11 days late in reporting to Nationals spring training. But he had permission from the team with instructions on how to keep himself ready for when he did get to camp.

The 31-year-old right-hander didn't arrive in West Palm Beach until Feb. 25, instead staying home in San Diego to be with his family following the birth of his fifth child. Leading up to his departure from the West Coast, Williams was prepping for major league spring training by facing high school hitters.

After facing live big league hitters and throwing a bullpen session last week, Williams, seeking to maintain his spot in the Nationals rotation as the fourth or fifth starter, was finally ready to make his 2024 Grapefruit League debut this afternoon in what would be a 1-0 win against the Cardinals in a quick 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Aiming for 35-40 pitches in two innings, Williams impressed while making quick work of his two frames on an efficient 27 pitches, 20 thrown for strikes.

“The goal going into it was just to come out healthy,” Williams said at his locker after throwing 15 more pitches in the bullpen following his departure from the game. “At this point of spring training, we want to get as much volume as possible. So thankfully, we're able to get two full innings today. I was able to throw about 15 more in the bullpen to get that volume up. I think it was successful in that sense.”

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Cardinals in West Palm Beach

meneses trot grey

WEST PALM BEACH – Let’s try this again, shall we?

After yesterday’s rainout against the Marlins, the Nationals return to CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches to face the other team from Jupiter: the Cardinals.

Trevor Williams’ spring debut was supposed to be yesterday, but the Nationals pushed it back to today after he reported to camp late after the birth of his fifth child and scheduled Zach Davies to start instead. This will be Williams’ first Grapefruit League appearance this spring as he attempts to hold onto his spot in the Nationals rotation.

With Davies, Jake Irvin, Jackson Rutledge and Joan Adon also fighting for the fourth and fifth spots and already removed from their spring debuts, Williams will have to impress every chance he gets in order to stick in the rotation. Otherwise, he could be headed to the bullpen as a swing man, which he did to mixed results with the Cubs and Mets from 2021-22.

Being that it’s his first outing, the right-hander will likely be limited to one or two innings and 20-30 pitches. Tanner Rainey, Richard Bleier, Robert Gsellman and Derek Law are among the pitchers listed to follow Williams out of the bullpen.

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Is Wood's path to the majors in left field?

James Wood spring training 2

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – James Wood has impressed in all facets so far in spring training.

He’s 8-for-16 at the plate with three home runs, five RBIs, six walks, only three strikeouts and one stolen base in eight Grapefruit League games. He’s posting a .636 on-base percentage and 1.699 OPS.

In the field, he’s played solid defense over his 24 innings in right field and eight in center.

Before yesterday’s rainout against a Marlins split-squad, he was scheduled to hit second and play left field for the first time since 2022, a new avenue that could be his path to the major leagues.

Wood didn’t appear in left field at all last year, playing 67 games in center field and 46 in right field between High-A Wilmington and Double-A Harrisburg. He played exclusively center when he arrived at Single-A Fredericksburg after the Juan Soto blockbuster trade in 2022. He did, however, play 34 innings over four games in left earlier that year between the Padres’ Rookie-level Arizona Complex League and Single-A affiliates, the only time he’s played the position in his first three professional seasons.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in West Palm Beach on MASN

Lane Thomas red catching

WEST PALM BEACH – The Nationals are back on the Atlantic Coast side of Florida after yesterday’s cross-state trip to Fort Myers. They’ll be here for the next week before making their final trip to the Gulf Coast side a week from today to face the Twins.

What was supposed to be Trevor Williams’ spring debut turned into Zach Davies’ second start after the Nationals flipped the two starters to have Williams pitch tomorrow. Davies had a strong debut with the Nats on Tuesday, pitching two shutout innings with three strikeouts, two walks and a hit batter. The right-hander threw 23-of-40 pitches for strikes against an Astros lineup that included a lot of big-name regulars.

Today he’ll try to go a little deeper in the game against a Marlins split-squad team. Joan Adon, Tanner Rainey, Robert Garcia and Jose A. Ferrer are among the pitchers listed to follow Davies out of the bullpen.

Among the Nationals regulars in the starting lineup: Lane Thomas is leading off and in right field, James Wood is batting second and making his first appearance in left, Joey Meneses is at first base, Keibert Ruiz is catching, Nick Senzel is at third and Victor Robles is in center.

And hey, what better way to spend your Sunday than watching the game on MASN at 1 p.m.?

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Rainey's healthy debut, Corbin's sharp cutter and Wood's latest homer

rainey delivers white

JUPITER, Fla. – This wasn’t Tanner Rainey’s return from Tommy John surgery. That came late last September, when he tossed a scoreless inning in Atlanta as a reward for all the time and effort he put in over the previous year-plus.

What was the significance of Rainey’s 1-2-3 inning today at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium? Consider it his return to a normal pitching routine, the specter of his 2022 elbow ligament replacement surgery now well in the rear-view mirror.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve pitched consistently,” the Nationals reliever said following his team’s 3-1 exhibition victory over the Cardinals.

Yes, it has. After working vigilantly to complete his rehab program last fall and make at least one big league appearance before season’s end, Rainey went into the winter a healthy pitcher who could prepare for 2024 just like everyone else.

The Nationals, though, did still want to take it a little slow with Rainey. He threw a couple extra bullpen sessions than his teammates in the early days of camp, then threw an extra round of live batting practice to make sure everything felt right before being thrown into a real game situation.

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Given chance to start, Nationals' kids excel against Astros' stars

Dylan Crews spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Davey Martinez filled out a lineup card this morning that had some purpose to it. Not the batting order, that was incidental. But the names he wrote into the three starting outfield slots – Hassell in left, Crews in center, Wood in right – was done for a particular reason.

The Nationals’ top prospects had all already seen playing time through the first three days of the Grapefruit League. Today, though, was an opportunity to let them all start together, facing an accomplished major league pitcher in the Astros’ José Urquidy.

“I want to try to get all those guys in there together,” Martinez said this morning, “let them face a good pitcher and see how they handle it.”

The verdict? They handled it well. Very, very well.

The kids’ imprints were all over the Nats’ 10-3 thrashing of the Astros. Robert Hassell III hit a two-run opposite-field homer. Dylan Crews delivered a two-run hustle double, stole a base and made a diving catch in center field. James Wood singled, walked and scored a run. And Brady House, who entered off the bench, launched his first spring training homer, making this an extremely good day for an organization that has staked its future to this crop of elite prospects.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Astros in West Palm Beach

James Wood spring training 2

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – The Nationals’ top prospects have been given a good amount of playing time early this spring, but most of that time has come later in games, when they’re facing minor league pitchers. That changes today, because Davey Martinez has four of the kids in the starting lineup against an accomplished major leaguer.

James Wood, Dylan Crews, Robert Hassell III and Trey Lipscomb are all in there, set to face Astros right-hander José Urquidy in what should be their biggest challenge to date. Their performance in this one game isn’t going to make or break their spring, but it does give club officials a little more evidence of their readiness against top competition.

Speaking of tough challenges, Zach Davies today will have to face most of the Astros’ “A” lineup. Davies, the veteran right-hander trying to make the club on a minor league deal, will need to keep his sinker down in the zone and hope to induce some ground balls out of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez and Co. if he wants to make a good first impression.

WASHINGTON NATIONALS vs. HOUSTON ASTROS
Where:
CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, West Palm Beach
Gametime: 1:05 p.m. EST
TV: MLB Network, MLB.tv (Astros feed)
Radio: MLB.com (Astros feed)
Weather: Sunny, 76 degrees, wind 12 mph out to left field

NATIONALS
DH Lane Thomas
SS Ildemaro Vargas
RF James Wood
1B Joey Meneses
3B Jake Alu
CF Dylan Crews
C Riley Adams
LF Robert Hassell III
2B Trey Lipscomb

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With sharp fastball, Gray excels in first start of spring

gray v CIN

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – That Josiah Gray struck out five Mets batters today during his two-inning spring debut was good news for the Nationals

That he struck out three of those batters swinging at fastballs was great news for Gray.

“Anytime you can get swings and misses, especially on the fastball, is a good feeling,” the right-hander said. “A confidence booster.”

Gray has shown the ability to be a strikeout pitcher at times during his burgeoning career, with five double-digit outings the last two seasons. But most of those whiffs came on breaking balls, with the occasional called third strike sprinkled in for good measure.

What Gray showcased today during an eventual 6-3 exhibition loss was something different. And something the Nationals have been waiting to see for a while.

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Wood homers again, Gore is sharp in Nats' first spring win

Brady House Trey Lipscomb James Wood spring training

JUPITER, Fla. – James Wood, a pleasant young man of few words, was surprised to see reporters waiting to speak to him after today’s game at Roger Dean Stadium, less than 24 hours after the same group interviewed him following the Nationals’ exhibition opener in West Palm Beach.

Sorry, kid. But when you homer in each of your first two Grapefruit League games, you get interviewed.

Wood followed up his impressive debut Saturday night with another impressive feat this afternoon. His 422-foot homer to dead-center in the top of the fifth was the top highlight of the Nats’ 6-3 victory over the Marlins, a second straight titanic blast to make the 21-year-old prospect the clear early story of the spring.

“It’s good to see a kid get off like that early in camp,” manager Davey Martinez said. “He does everything the right way. … I’ve got no complaints. I love watching him play. He’s going to be special.”

Given his first opportunity to start in right field after coming off the bench the previous night against the Astros, Wood went 1-for-2 with that two-run homer and a walk. He also recorded an outfield assist, a rare 9-6 force out when Miami’s Jonathan Davis (leading off first base) froze on a line drive single in the third and was thrown out.

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Starting lineups: Nats vs. Marlins in Jupiter

James Wood spring training 1

JUPITER, Fla. – The first game of the spring is always a big event, everyone excited to get started and watch real baseball. Now, though, the grind begins.

The Nationals play their first road game this afternoon, making the short 15-minute drive north to Jupiter to face the Marlins. They’ll do so with a very different lineup from Saturday night’s opener.

Joey Meneses is the only returning starter, getting a chance to play first base after serving as designated hitter Saturday. James Wood, who homered off the bench, gets a chance to start in right field. And fellow prospect Trey Lipscomb also starts at second base, a nice opportunity for him to show what he can do. Riley Adams will do the catching after Keibert Ruiz and Drew Millas worked Saturday night.

MacKenzie Gore makes the start for the Nats, hoping to complete his two innings in a much more efficient manner than Patrick Corbin did in the opener. As was the case Saturday, there will be another starter coming out of the bullpen today, with Jake Irvin following Gore and scheduled to pitch two innings himself. Kyle Finnegan and Hunter Harvey are among the relievers on tap.

And another note: Jen Pawol, hoping to become the first female umpire in MLB history, will be calling balls and strikes today after handling the bases Saturday night.

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Young prospects shine after starters struggle in spring opener

Jackson Rutledge blue

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Spring training results are a tricky thing to decipher. The final scores of games mean nothing. Individual performances can mean something, but you always have to include the context in which they were achieved.

What, then, to take away from the Nationals’ spring training opener tonight, a 7-4 loss to the Astros that started off in unsightly fashion with starters in the game but then turned far more compelling as a host of young prospects took over?

Patrick Corbin’s laborious start – two runs, three hits, 49 pitches in only 1 2/3 innings – and a pair of shaky defensive plays behind him by Lane Thomas and Victor Robles set an ominous tone for the evening. But by the time James Wood demolished a baseball, Robert Hassell III tripled and singled, Dylan Crews made a diving catch in center field and Jackson Rutledge cruised through two innings on the mound, the events of the second half of the game felt more important than the events of the first half.

“This is going to be a fun spring training,” manager Davey Martinez said. “One, we’ve got to get our guys ready. And two, we’re going to see a lot of these young kids. I get to see them, put eyes on them, and work with them all camp. It keeps me busy, but it’s a lot of fun. It’s a good busy.”

Yes, it’s important for Corbin and Thomas and Robles to prepare for the season, and all three of them will need to execute better than they did tonight. But the 2024 season is probably going to be as much about that next wave of prospects – whenever they arrive in the majors – as it will be about the players returning from last year.

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More-involved Zimmerman wants more players to stay long-term with Nats

Ryan-Zimmerman-coach-spring-training-1

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Employee No. 11 reported for work this week at Nationals camp. The number of players left who actually were teammates with Ryan Zimmerman is dwindling, but the franchise icon still has a commanding presence when he walks into the clubhouse or onto a practice field, players young and old alike recognizing his significance.

Now entering his third season in retirement, Zimmerman wants to start taking a more hands-on role with the only organization that ever employed him. His official title is “special advisor for baseball and business operations.” His unofficial role: Be there to offer any and all insight he can. Not only to players and coaches, but also to front office members and even ownership.

“I know nothing about the other side,” the former star corner infielder said. “That’s my goal this year: To continue doing what I’m doing with the players, especially the young guys, but also for myself learn the ins and outs of the other side and become more knowledgeable, so that I can have better suggestions. It’s a learning year.”

What does that look like in practical terms? Zimmerman spends his mornings in uniform, working individually or in groups with players. He then spends his afternoons in meeting rooms with Nats coaches, general manager Mike Rizzo and his lieutenants. In the evenings, he might take some younger players out to dinner, getting to know them better and getting them to start building the kind of camaraderie with each other he insists is critical to team success.

The past two springs, Zimmerman would spend a week here. But with his family tagging along, his time and duties were pulled in opposite directions. This spring, the rest of the family stayed home in Northern Virginia, freeing him up to fully immerse himself in baseball again. He hopes to be more of a regular presence at Nationals Park during the season, as well.

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First full workout features fundamentals, blasts by the kids

CJ Abrams spring training

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – They took the field as a team for the first time in 2024, Nationals pitchers, catchers and position players alike emerging from the clubhouse and heading outside to stretch, warm up and then conduct fundamental workouts in unison on the first day of full-squad workouts.

“Great day,” manager Davey Martinez said afterward. “A lot of energy. The boys were good. I saw some good pitching. I saw some good hitting. It was a good day.”

Fifty-four of the 58 players who have been invited to major league camp so far participated. One (Mason Thompson) is still in the middle of a two-week shutdown due to elbow soreness. One (Zach Davies) just arrived today after signing a minor league deal Sunday. One (Trevor Williams) is due to arrive later this week after his wife gave birth to the couple’s fifth child over the weekend. And one (Stephen Strasburg) may or may not take up the club’s request to come to Florida and mentor young pitchers even though he's no longer physically able to pitch himself.

Everyone else was good to go, and the ensuing 2 1/2 hours provided a combination of serious instruction, intriguing head-to-head matchups among teammates and ample opportunity for laughter and fun.

Martinez chose to set the tone for the workout – and the entire spring – with some baserunning instruction right off the top. The seventh-year manager gathered every position player around the plate for a lengthy discussion of baserunning expectations, then ushered everyone to first base where he personally demonstrated the proper way to take leads, get back to the bag or take off for second base and beyond.

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Martinez impressed with early arrivals; no six-man rotation for now

Davey Martinez dugout red

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – These early days of spring training are supposed to be reserved for pitchers and catchers. Position players technically don’t report until Tuesday.

Stroll through the Nationals clubhouse, though, or walk around their practice fields, and you can’t help but notice how many position players already are here.

Of the 29 position players invited to big league camp this spring, all but two were on the field today for informal workouts. Only prospects Dylan Crews and Darren Baker have yet to be seen, and if they show up Saturday they’d still be reporting three days early.

This isn’t a byproduct of any message from club officials, subtle or unsubtle. It’s been up to the individual players to arrive at their own preferred pace, and nearly all of them chose to arrive early.

“The message is to make sure they’re ready go for spring training,” manager Davey Martinez said. “I always tell them: Be in shape as if you’re coming in to play a game. And they took it to heart. A lot of them – because the weather’s so good – they came here early and started to work out. When I came here, we already had 15-16 guys working out. I thought that was pretty impressive. I’m happy they’re here. I’m happy they’re working this early.”

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Spring storylines: The kids are here at last

James Wood futures jersey

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – There admittedly hasn’t been a lot of juice at Nationals spring training in recent years. Such is life when you tear down the remnants of a championship roster and start over, recognizing it’s going to be a while until the fruits of your labor pay off.

For the last two years, it felt like there was more reason to pay attention to minor-league camp than major-league camp, as the franchise’s next wave of prospects began the long trek up the organizational depth chart.

The Nats aren’t all the way there yet. There is no serious talk of contention in 2024. When the season begins, those prospects are almost certainly all still going to be in the minor leagues.

But for the first time, several of them will be participating in major-league camp. And even if none of them survive to the end of March, their presence alone is going to create some sorely needed juice that’s been lacking in recent springs.

The three big non-roster invitees to camp are Dylan Crews, James Wood and Brady House, the organization’s consensus top three prospects. Two first-round draft picks (House in 2021, Crews in 2023) and perhaps the best of the five young players acquired in the Juan Soto trade (Wood). All closed out last season at Double-A Harrisburg, suggesting all could be on track to debut in D.C. sometime this season.

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More prospect rankings ahead of spring training

James Wood Harrisburg red

As the offseason dwindles down and pitchers and catchers prepare to report to spring training in 10 days, the last few bits of offseason content are getting pushed out.

Among them continues to be the latest prospect and minor league farm system rankings.

Baseball America has come out with their updated lists two weeks ago. Dylan Crews came in as the No. 6 overall prospect in the sport, with James Wood at No. 11 and Brady House at No. 55. Cade Cavalli, Yohandy Morales, Jackson Rutledge, Robert Hassell III, Cristhian Vaquero, Elijah Green and Jarlin Susana round out the top 10 in Baseball America’s new top 30 Nats prospects rankings.

Over the past week, some new rankings dropped.

A little over a week ago MLB Pipeline released its new top 100 prospects list to conclude their series of ranking the top 10 at each position.

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