Lost in Bryce Harper’s latest foray into villainy is that the Nationals drafted his older brother yesterday, using their 30th-round pick on South Carolina left-hander Bryan Harper (not to be confused with the Brian Harper who spelled his name without a Y and was a really good player).
This is actually the second time the Nationals have drafted Bryan Harper. They also picked him in the 31st round out of high school in 2008, but didn’t sign him. He went on to play with younger brother Bryce at College of Southern Nevada and then transferred to South Carolina this year.
Bryce naturally thinks Bryan is really good:
He’s one of the most dominating left-handed pitchers I’ve seen in my life. My brother’s pretty good and I wouldn’t say it if he wasn’t.
Perhaps, but Bryan Harper has a 5.40 ERA and 18/17 K/BB ratio as a reliever this season. For now at least Bryce should probably stick to hitting rather than scouting.
Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post speculates that the Nationals might send Bryan Harper to Single-A to play with Bryce. If they can sign him, of course. The 6-foot-5 southpaw still has one more season of eligibility left and could opt to return to school.
To the surprise of, well, very few, the Mariners didn’t make the cut for the postseason this year. While they threw their hats in the ring for a wild card berth, their pitching staff just couldn’t stay healthy, from the handful of pitchers who contracted season-ending injuries in spring training to Felix Hernandez‘s shoulder bursitis to structural damage in Hisashi Iwakuma‘s right shoulder. Left-hander James Paxton missed 79 days with a lingering head cold, strained left forearm and pectoral strain. Heading into the 2018 season, the lefty told MLB.com’s Greg Johns that he plans to “nerd out big-time” in order to prepare for a healthy, consistent run with the club.
So far, Johns reports, that entails a new diet and workout program, hot yoga sessions and blood testing. “I just think there’s more I can do,” Paxton said. “I haven’t done the blood testing before. Finding out if there’s something I don’t know about myself. It’s just about learning and trying to find what works for me.”
When healthy, the 28-year-old southpaw was lights-out for the Mariners. He helped stabilize the front end of the rotation with a 12-5 record in 24 starts and supplemented his efforts with a 2.98 ERA, 2.4 BB/9 and 10.3 SO/9 through 136 innings. Despite taking multiple trips to the disabled list, he built up 4.6 fWAR — the most wins above replacement he’s compiled in any season of his career to date. Had he not been felled by a pectoral injury in mid-August — one that came with a five-week trip to the disabled list — the club might have been been able to make a bigger push for the playoffs.
Of course, even if Paxton manages to stay healthy next season, the Mariners still have the rest of the rotation to worry about. They cycled through 17 starters in 2017 and tied the 2014 Rangers with 40 total pitchers over the course of the season. Per GM Jerry Dipoto, their top four starters (Paxton, Hernandez, Iwakuma, and Tommy John candidate Drew Smyly) only contributed 17% of total innings pitched, just a tad below the 40% average. Finding adequate big league arms and compensating for injured aces (both current and former) will be tough. Still, getting a healthy, dominant Paxton back on the mound for 30+ starts would be a huge get for the team — whether or not the postseason is in their future next year.