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The Nationals could use Bryan Harper to keep Bryce around in 2019

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The Nationals might have to get creative if they want to retain outfielder Bryce Harper beyond 2018, and Byron Kerr of MASN Sports speculates that they could use Bryce’s older brother, Bryan, in order to do so. Bryan Harper, a left-handed reliever in the Nats’ minor league system, is currently working his way back from Tommy John surgery and could be ready for his next stint in the minors as soon as 2018, with his big league debut not far behind.

The 28-year-old southpaw last appeared for the Nationals’ Double- and Triple-A affiliates in 2016, pitching to a combined 2.18 ERA, 3.6 BB/9 and 8.1 SO/9 through 45 1/3 innings. He was diagnosed with a forearm strain in August and underwent Tommy John surgery several months later, with a requisite recovery period that kept him sidelined through the entire 2017 season. With a return to full health, Harper could presumably slot into a bullpen that features fellow lefties Sean Doolittle, Sammy Solis, Enny Romero and Matt Grace.

This isn’t a perfect plan, certainly, but one that might still appeal to the 25-year-old Bryce as he eyes free agency next fall. Kerr adds that the brothers haven’t played together since their college days, and it’s not too ludicrous to imagine Bryan suiting up for the team in the next couple of years — provided that he can replicate some of his pre-TJ results on the major league level. Of course, that may not be enough to sway Bryce into signing an extension with the Nationals, who told reporters they “firmly believe” their star outfielder will test the market in 2019.

Ronald Acuña Jr. reaches rare home run milestone

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Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr. hit his 40th home run in today’s 5-4 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. In so doing he become only the third player to hit 40 homers at age 21 or younger, joining Hall of Famers Mel Ott and Eddie Matthews, who hit 42 and 47, respectively, before turning 22. Ott was only 20 in fact.

Home run marks are a dime a dozen this year, of course, so maybe you want to discount Acuña’s accomplishment. Even if you do, though, you can’t discount his wheels. He didn’t have a stolen base this afternoon but he does have 37 on the year and has over a week to swipe three more. If he does he’ll become a member of the exclusive 40/40 club. It’s only current members: Jose Canseco, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Alfonso Soriano.

The Braves win clinches at least a tie for the NL East title. They’ll clinch the division outright if either they win or the Nationals lose tomorrow.