Is it a lock that the Nats will draft Harper?

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Bryce Harper cover small.jpgDave Shenin of the Washington Post doesn’t think so, and offers several
reasons why what everyone things to be a foregone conclusion is not
necessarily forgone.

Among the reasons: Harper hasn’t “separated himself” from the pack like
Strasburg did; He may not stick at catcher, thus diminishing his value;
He’s a Boras client, thus inflating his price; his recent comments
about “second guessing” his fast track to the draft may make people
question his makeup; the Nats have a catching prospect already, in the
form of Derek Norris — he doesn’t mention Jesus Flores, but he’s worth
noting too; and the Nats may contend in 2011, so they might want a more
finished product than Harper.

Those are mostly decent points, though each has a counterargument or two. The one about makeup can go either way,
of course, in that his decision to skip two years of high school, in my
mind at least, raises just as many questions about his maturity and
mental preparedness as his statements showing a lack of confidence now
that he has done so. I’m also not terribly worried about whether he’ll
stick at catcher given that he appears to have a bat that is simply
awesome, not just awesome for a catcher.  Not as valuable at, say,
right field as he is behind the plate, but his bat will play anywhere.

The biggest problem, Shenin notes, is that no other great first round
option has emerged yet.  Some people think differently, and point to
high school pitcher Jameson Taillon, but a high school pitcher, even a
great one, is farther away from the big league level than a hitter like
Harper, so his pluses work against some of the same considerations
Shenin mentions above.

And ultimately Shenin admits that he may be over thinking things.  I think he may be right.

Dusty Baker on struggling Jonathan Papelbon: “He doesn’t look very good.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 24:  Jonathan Papelbon #58 of the Washington Nationals looks on after coming out in the ninth inning during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 24, 2016 in Washington, DC.  The Padres won 10-6.  (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
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The Nationals lost a heartbreaker on Tuesday night, as the Indians overcame a two-run deficit in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat the Nationals 7-6. Closer Jonathan Papelbon faced five batters but was unable to record an out, yielding a leadoff walk, a double, a bunt that ended up very successful due to a Ryan Zimmerman throwing error, an intentional walk, and a single. Oliver Perez came in and eventually allowed one of his inherited runners to score, saddling Papelbon with the loss.

Papelbon also served up four runs in the outing before Tuesday’s, on Saturday against the Padres. The two clubs entered the top of the ninth tied 6-6, but a walk followed by three two-out singles and a bases-clearing double off of Papelbon allowed the Padres to take a 10-6 lead.

On the season, Papelbon is 19-for-22 in save chances with a 4.18 ERA and a 30/12 K/BB ratio in 32 1/3 innings. If the season were to end today, the right-hander’s 21.4 percent strikeout rate would be the lowest mark of his career and his 8.6 percent walk rate would be his highest mark since 2010.

Manager Dusty Baker didn’t indicate that he’s going to make a change at closer, but he sounded dissatisfied with Papelbon’s performance thus far. Via Mark Zuckerberg of MASN, Baker said, “He doesn’t have his command, which is evident when you walk the leadoff hitter. But it’s like, what do you say? How does he look? Right now he doesn’t look like Pap. He doesn’t look very good. Usually he doesn’t walk people like that.”

The non-waiver trade deadline is on Monday, August 1. The Nationals, at 58-42, still have a four-game lead over the Marlins and a 4.5-game lead over the Mets. Tuesday’s loss has motivated the club to attempt to upgrade the bullpen, Jon Morosi reports. The Nationals were in the mix for Aroldis Chapman before the Yankees sent him to the Cubs. Perhaps Andrew Miller could be next on the Nats’ wish list.

Blue Jays trade Drew Storen to the Mariners for Joaquin Benoit

TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 29: Drew Storen #45 of the Toronto Blue Jays delivers a pitch in the eleventh inning during MLB game action against the Boston Red Sox on May 29, 2016 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
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The Blue Jays announced on Tuesday night that the club traded reliever Drew Storen and some cash to the Mariners in exchange for reliever Joaquin Benoit.

Storen, 28, was designated for assignment by the Jays on Sunday after posting a 6.21 ERA with a 32/10 K/BB ratio in 33 1/3 innings. The Jays acquired him during the offseason from the Nationals in exchange for Ben Revere and a player to be named later.

Benoit, 38, struggled as well, putting up a 5.18 ERA with a 28/15 K/BB ratio in 24 1/3 innings with the Mariners.