Entering 2014, who’s the most indispensable National?

A former Nationals hurler has joined the Braves organization, giving Atlanta added depth in the lefty relief department.

Atahualpa Severino, who played his first seven professional seasons in the Nationals organization and made six appearances with the Nats at the big league level in 2011, has signed a minor league deal with the Braves, according to Baseball America’s Matt Eddy.

Severino posted a 3.86 ERA in those six major league appearances with the Nats three years ago, but he has yet to make it back to the big leagues since. The now 29-year-old lefty had a solid 2012 campaign at Triple-A Syracuse, pitching to a 2.81 ERA over 48 innings, but some of his peripheral numbers were not as strong. He had a low 1.19-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and posted a 1.521 WHIP that season.

Severino spent last year between the Royals and Pirates organizations, and put up a 3.60 ERA, 3.05-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 1.327 WHIP while holding left-handed hitters to a .171/.234/.271 slash line. He’ll now battle for a job in Atlanta’s stellar bullpen.

On another note, Bryce Harper found himself featured in another magazine this week, but it wasn’t Sports Illustrated, ESPN The Magazine or another sports publication. He made his way into Forbes.

For the third straight year, Forbes released its “30 under 30” list, a collection of what it calls the “brightest stars in 15 different fields under the age of 30.” Harper made the sports list, along with Angels center fielder Mike Trout, Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Oklahoma City Thunder forward (and D.C. area native) Kevin Durant, Miami Heat forward LeBron James, New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, tennis star Maria Sharapova and more.

Forbes notes that Harper’s jersey is one of baseball’s top sellers, he’s popular in social media and that he’s served as a pitch-man for Toyota, Under Armour and Geico.

What, no mention of my appearance in Harper’s Toyota commercial last year? C’mon, Forbes. Step your game up.

Speaking of Harper, I had a thought pop into my head last night when seeing the 21-year-old’s name on Forbes’ list of the young stars throughout the world of sports: Is Harper the Nats’ most indispensable player at this point?

Yeah, the Nats struggled through the first month of the season when Harper was tearing the cover off the ball, going 13-13 up until he ran into the right field wall in Atlanta on April 30. But they certainly missed his presence during the 31 games he was on the disabled list with bursitis in his left knee, and Harper wasn’t the same player over the rest of the season.

He has the potential to be one of the game’s greats when healthy and clicking, and is the type of guy whose energy and enthusiasm can rub off on the rest of the team when he’s going well. Harper can impact the game in a major way both offensively and defensively, and the Nats plan to even use his speed on the bases a bit more in 2014.

I’m not saying I would necessarily choose Harper as the Nats’ most indispensable player going into the 2014 season, I’m just posing the question.

Would you choose Jayson Werth, who got red-hot in the second half of the 2013 season and led the Nats to their strong finish? How about Ryan Zimmerman or Ian Desmond, two infielders who have become leaders on this Nationals team?

If you’re thinking of going with a starting pitcher, you’ve got to factor in that those guys obviously only take the mound once every five days. But that’s not necessarily discounting the impact that Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez or Jordan Zimmermann can make on a club.

Then there’s a guy like Tyler Clippard, who often finds himself in pressure-packed, late-inning situations with the game on the line and often gets the job done. Is he the Nats’ most indispensable player because of how dominant of a lead-preserver he’s become?

It’s a tough question to answer, because unlike in basketball or football, there isn’t one everyday player who has the ball in his hands significantly more often than his teammates. It’s easy to say that James or Durant are indispensable to their teams or that Peyton Manning is the player the Denver Broncos could least afford to lose.

It’s tougher to make that decision when it comes to a baseball team. When it comes to the Nats, who you got?

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