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Stock Watch: Harper cementing MVP-caliber season

Sep 16, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

Sep 15, 2015; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) watching the ball of his solo home run during the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Each week this season, we’ll take the temperature of the Nationals roster to see whose stock is rising or falling.  

Record: 3-3

Team slash: .240/.315/.389

Team ERA: 2.67

Runs per game: 3.5

 

STOCK UP  

Bryce Harper, RF: .450 AVG/ 5 HR/ 1.772 OPS 

Is there any doubt these days as to who the NL MVP should be? Though a few pundits have recently pondered whether or not the red-hot Yoenis Cespedes deserves the nod, he just hasn’t put together the type of season that Harper has. While Cespedes has definitely made a late run, it’s not like the Nats’ 22-year-old superstar has been slacking in September. He has eight home runs in his last 11 games, raising his total to an NL-leading 39 long balls. Add in the fact that his slash line of .338/.467/.667 is the best in the majors, and there really shouldn’t be much of a debate anymore. Sure, the Nationals didn’t play well enough as a team to make a run at the postseason. But that shouldn’t take away from Harper’s value, which is undeniable.

Stephen Strasburg, SP: 1-1/ 1.76 ERA/ 27 K/ 2 BB  

Before being put on the disabled list in late May, Strasburg’s ERA was shockingly high at 6.55. So it’s no surprise that during the DL stint, not only did he work on getting healthier but he also wanted to fix the mechanical issues that had clearly affected both his velocity and command. Ever since, he’s been a different pitcher; in his last 10 starts, he’s 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA while recording 80 strikeouts to just nine walks. He’s been in vintage form, utilizing his fastball that touches 98 mph to set up a devastating curveball in two-strike counts to finish off hitters. While the Nats’ starting rotation as a whole has disappointed, Strasburg’s in-season rebound is undoubtedly one of the bright spots of 2015.

 

STOCK DOWN 

Ian Desmond, SS: .125 AVG/ .160 OBP/ .125 SLG 

So much for Desmond’s resurgence. After a solid August, the Nats’ shortstop has regressed to being the struggling hitter he was earlier in the season. At this point, no hot streak will be enough to salvage what has been a down year for a player who will be looking to cash in on a big contract in a few months.

Drew Storen, RP: 0.2 IP/ HR 

If this is it for Storen, what a tough way to go out. After yielding another go-ahead home run last Wednesday, the 28-year-old reliever reportedly broke his thumb while slamming the lock box at his locker in frustration, effectively ending his season. Of all the Nats players who have turned in subpar performances this year, Storen’s fall from grace was by far the most dramatic. To be considered one of the best closers in the game, only to have the team essentially demote him for veteran Jonathan Papelbon was one thing. But to then routinely have meltdowns in his opportunities as a set up man is another. It’s fair to assume that Storen will ask for a trade this winter, and that the Nats will do whatever they can to accommodate him. However, his value is probably at an all-time low, which is a shame for someone who despite all his talent and runs of dominance, will always be remembered for what he didn’t do in the biggest moments.

  1. janebeard - Sep 16, 2015 at 12:48 PM

    I love this case for the MVP. I hate that my two favorite players have earned their way onto the “stock down” column. I know we won’t keep either one. I will always love them for what they contributed to us, in terms of great plays, joy, character (and the dugout bleachers). I hope they both go on to a tam that believes in them and where they can once again flourish.

  2. Ellie - Sep 16, 2015 at 1:47 PM

    Maybe they should trade Storen for Aaron Crow. 🙂

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 16, 2015 at 2:00 PM

      +1

    • therealjohnc - Sep 16, 2015 at 2:31 PM

      Of course, if they wait three weeks they can have Aaron Crow without trading for him – coming off of Tommy John surgery this year, Crow is virtually certain to be non-tendered by his current team (the Marlins).

      • Section 222 - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:19 PM

        I think Ellie had tongue firmly planted in cheek, given that Storen was drafted with the pick the Nats got for failing to sign Crow the year before.

      • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:41 PM

        Which is precisely why I gave it the +1.

  3. Section 222 - Sep 16, 2015 at 2:23 PM

    It doesn’t matter what Harp does from here on in. A few dumb sportswriters won’t vote for him because he’s not playing for a playoff team, or even a playoff contender at this point. But any writer who isn’t blinded by that silly bias has to vote for him. There is simply no denying that he is the most valuable player in baseball right now. He is, quite simply, an absolute beast.

    Try this thought experiment: Imagine you are the GM of the Dodgers, and can choose any outfielder in baseball for your postseason run. (I pick the Dodgers because they could actually use an outfielder at this point). Would you pick Bryce Harper or Yoenis Cespedes?

    Right. I thought so.

    • Eugene in Oregon - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      Exactly. It won’t be a unanimous vote, but it will be a landslide.

  4. Eugene in Oregon - Sep 16, 2015 at 3:13 PM

    If you’re going to stick with the stock market metaphor, I think the SEC has already stepped in and suspending all trading in ‘Drew Storen’.

  5. philipd763 - Sep 16, 2015 at 4:42 PM

    I think Desmond has crapped in his mess kit. He must be sick about turning down the $110 million the Nats offered. Pure greed and an inflated opinion of himself did him in. Even Troy Tulowitski hasn’t come close to earning his eye watering contract.

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