Quick Links

LaRoche, not Harper should be in home run derby

803960.png

LaRoche, not Harper should be in home run derby

2012 MLB Home Run Derby captain Matt Kemp said earlier this week he wouldn't select Bryce Harper as a participant, that his stats didn't qualify. It was reported, however, that he planned to select teammate Andre Ethier who has more homers than Harper, but not enough to put him at the top of the league.

Kemp's participation has been in serious question because of injury and now Ethier looks headed to the disabled list with an oblique strain. If both are still hurting on July 9, that could open some spots in the derby. While many will clamor for Harper to get in, another Nationals player may be even more worthy.

With two home runs in Tuesday's game, first baseman Adam LaRoche moved all the way to sixth in the National League with 15 home runs on the year. He is tied with Corey Hart of the Milwaukee Brewers and trails five N.L. players including Carlos Beltran and Ryan Braun who lead the league with 20 homers each.

One thing that could help LaRoche is his recent surge in power numbers. LaRoche has hit seven home runs in the month of June which is tops in the National League. He is legitimately the hottest power hitter in the N.L. at the moment.

LaRoche has more home runs than any N.L. first baseman or infielder for that matter. Six of the other top seven sluggers this year are outfielders and Houston shortstop Jed Lowrie is the only other infielder in the top ten.

Will Kemp mix it up and put some infielders in the competition? If so, then LaRoche should be included. He would be the first Washington Nationals participant and the fifth overall in franchise history.

Hubie Brooks represented the Montreal Expos in 1986, Larry Walker did it in 1992, left fielder Henry Rodriguez (the other one) in 1996, and Vladimir Guerrero in 2000. All four players combined for a total of 10 home runs across the four appearances, not a good showing overall. LaRoche himself has never been in the showcase, but once hit 32 home runs in 2006 and has 179 overall in nine seasons.

At 32 and in the middle of a comeback year, LaRoche wouldn't exactly draw viewers to the event. But then again, if they pass on Harper then ratings must not be the primary goal.

There is also the concern of LaRoche's swing being thrown off by participating. It is always possible for a player to come out of the derby in a prolonged funk after swinging for the fences over and over to please the crowd. But all in all, it would be fun for the Nats to have someone in the event and another highlight of a season to remember so far.

Quick Links

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

Nationals' Bryce Harper mashes monster homer on second pitch of spring training

The Nationals played their first game of spring training today against the Mets. They won, but that's not nearly the biggest story of the day. It was Bryce Harper's first at-bat that stole the show. 

On just the second pitch he saw of spring training, from lefty Sean Gilmartin, Harper mashed a ginormous home run to right center field. MLB.com shared video of the bomb. 

According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Harper smacked the ball at least 400 feet. In his second at-bat, he hit a line-drive single on the first pitch. 

Let's just say it was an exciting start to the year for Harper, who won the 2015 NL MVP only to endure a let-down last season. As Castillo points out, the slugger hit .226 against left-handed pitchers in 2016. 

Harper enters spring training at 230 pounds, up 15 pounds of muscle from last year. 

“I just felt going into the offseason you want to get as strong as you can, try to maintain your weight the best you can and just do everything the right way,” he told the Post. 

MORE NATIONALS: Baker thinks DC sports teams can win a championship this year

Quick Links

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals' Dusty Baker thinks Washington teams are positioned to win a championship this year

Nationals manager Dusty Baker is back for a second year and feeling optimistic for his Washington team. Spring training has begun in Florida and it has Baker thinking about how the Nats can create some excitement for local sports fans.

In an interview with American University’s WAMU radio station, Baker said D.C. wants to be a "city of champions.” Furthermore, he thinks it can be pulled off before the year ends.

"I came here to win a championship and you know I would love nothing more than to bring one to Washington. Washington, I didn’t know it before I got there, but it’s had a tough time getting out of the first round in a number of sports."

He projected the Nationals to bring home the next championship for the District, but he knows they have competition of late. 

"Washington Wizards are looking pretty good. I’m pulling for them first because their season ends before ours, so I’ve been really following them. The Capitals have a good thing going. I started watching the Redskins more this year.

"You know once it gets contagious in a city and you get a positive attitude throughout the city, then it transfers to the sports teams. So we want to be known as a city of champions, before the end of the year hopefully."

Baker has a reputation for bringing out the best in his teams, especially managing star players. He managed the San Francisco Giants for ten seasons before moving on to the Chicago Cubs, a team he managed for four seasons.

He's never won a World Series, but has taken a team to Game 7. He also finished third for the 2016 National League Manager of the Year award.

So, what are Baker’s steps for the Nationals to get that ultimate prize? A simple formula, really.

"I think that we’ve got to stay healthy, number one. We’re trying to fill the holes that we need to fill, and we’ve got to play," he said. "You know last year we were very close, we were one hit away or one play away or one pitch away from going to the next round against the Cubs."

While he says he came to win Washington a championship, he's also enjoying his time in the city. 

"I love D.C. Before that, San Francisco was my favorite town; that’s my home. But I tell you, D.C. is definitely in the running," he said. "I thought San Francisco had the best seafood, but man, you guys have the best seafood I think in the world."

Thanks, Dusty!

The Nationals play their first spring training game against the New York mets on Saturday.

RELATED: NATIONALS REGULAR SEASON SCHEDULE