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.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.