Tag:Bryce Harper
Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:58 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Strasburg's 2012 limits are to be determined

VIERA, Fla. -- The Nationals question for this spring is whether Bryce Harper will make the opening day roster.

The question for later this year will be about the team's other huge young star.

How many innings will they let Stephen Strasburg throw, and would they really shut him down in September if they're in a pennant race (as they expect to be)?

The answers, according to general manager Mike Rizzo: don't know yet, and absolutely yes.

Rizzo said Tuesday that while people have assumed that Strasburg will be limited to 160 innings -- that's what they allowed Jordan Zimmermann to throw in a similar situation last year -- the actual number won't be determined until later in the season.

"[Manager Davey Johnson] has absolutely no limits on how many innings or how many pitches [Strasburg can throw]," Rizzo said. "Davey's going to use his expertise."

That said, Rizzo guaranteed that Strasburg won't pitch a full season in 2012. He said it's unrealistic to expect that, since he pitched just 44 1/3 innings between the major leagues and minor leagues last year, when he was coming back from Tommy John surgery.

"We don't want to overpitch him," Rizzo said. "He will be shut down during the season at some point."

Exactly what that point is, Rizzo said, will be determined by what they see from Strasburg. Last year, Zimmermann's final start was on Aug. 28.

Of course, last year the Nationals were 22 1/2 games out of first place by that point. This year, they expect to be much closer to the top.

Strasburg seems to be a little more relaxed this spring, although he is still ultra-quiet and reserved. He was scheduled to spend part of Tuesday filming a commercial that will air this summer in the Washington area.
Posted on: February 3, 2012 1:58 pm
 

Harper would join short list of 19-year-olds

As CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman wrote, the Nationals plan to give 19-year-old Bryce Harper a real chance to make their team out of spring training.

In fact, one Nationals official told me he believes that Harper should make it, and that even though he is still learning, "he can help you win while he learns."

Besides, it's not unheard of for a 19-year-old to play in the big leagues. Mike Trout did it for 14 games with the Angels last summer. Both Uptons (B.J. and Justin) did it.

Alex Rodriguez played in the big leagues when he was still 18 years old.

But according to research through baseball-reference.com, Harper would be the first 19-year-old to break camp with a team since Felix Hernandez with the 2006 Mariners, and the first position player to do it since Andruw Jones with the 1997 Braves.

Harper will be 19 years, 172 days old when the Nationals open their season on April 5 in Chicago. King Felix (19.118 when he debuted in August 2005) was the last big leaguer that young, and Adrian Beltre (19.078 when he debuted in June 1998) was the last position player that young.

A look the 19-year-olds who have played in the big leagues since 2000:

-- Trout played 14 games with the Angels last July, hitting just .163 with a .492 OPS.

-- Justin Upton was 23 days shy of his 20th birthday when the Diamondbacks called him up in 2007.

-- Hernandez came to the big leagues to stay at age 19.

-- B.J. Upton was 18 days shy of his 20th birthday when he debuted with the Rays in August 2004.

-- Jose Reyes debuted with the Mets the day before he turned 20 in June 2003.

-- Wilson Betemit came up with the Braves as a 19-year-old in September 2001.
Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:37 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 10:57 am
 

With Jackson, Nationals are trying to win now

The Nationals were already going to be one of the more interesting teams to watch this year.

Now it's time to wonder if they could actually win.

They think so, and it's why they committed money to sign Edwin Jackson to a one-year, $11 million contract, as CBSSports.com colleague Jon Heyman first reported Thursday afternoon.

Jackson joins a Nationals rotation that already featured young stars Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, and already added Gio Gonzalez this winter. The Nationals also have John Lannan, Chien-Ming Wang and Ross Detwiler, although they could now look to trade one of them this spring.

It's not Halladay-Lee-Hamels, but it is huge progress for a team that as recently as 2009 had the fourth highest rotation ERA in baseball.

But is it good enough, especially in a division that could be the most competitive in baseball?

The Phillies are still the National League's elite team, even though they haven't been to the World Series the last two years. The Braves are still very strong, even though they collapsed last September.

And the Marlins are still the team that dominated the first part of this offseason, adding Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell.

Still, Nationals people are quietly -- and sometimes not so quietly -- optimistic, to the point of believing that they could make a charge for the playoffs this year.

"If the two middle infielders (Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa) get better, and if the catcher (Wilson Ramos) gets better, we could have a heck of a team," one Nats person said to me this week.

And if Bryce Harper is ready?

Obviously, the Nationals think Harper could be a difference-maker, if he's ready for the big leagues at age 19. Even if he isn't completely ready, one Nationals person said, "He can help you win even while he's still learning."

If Harper does make it to the opening day roster, the Nationals would move Jayson Werth to center field, a position he played some in Philadelphia and also for 19 games last year in Washington. The long-term plan, then, would be to add a true center fielder next winter, move Werth to left field and move Mike Morse to first base (where Adam LaRoche will play this year).

The Nationals didn't get everything they wanted this winter. Their top pitching target was Buehrle, who chose the Marlins instead. They were in on the Prince Fielder bidding, although it appears now that they were behind the Tigers, Dodgers and perhaps another team.

But they beat out a crowded field to get Gonzalez from the A's, and now they have Jackson, a hard-throwing 28-year-old who has made an All-Star team and pitched in a World Series.

When Werth signed with the Nationals 14 months ago, there was a thought he was going from the best team in the league to a team with little chance to win. Now, just a year later, the Phillies may still be the best team, but the Nationals could well have a chance to win, too.

They certainly believe they could.

Another way to think of the Jackson signing: The Red Sox arguably needed a starting pitcher more than the Nationals did, but the Nationals were apparently willing to commit more money to get one. The Boston Globe reported that the Sox offered Jackson just $5-6 million on a one-year deal; his deal with the Nationals is for twice that.

The Red Sox rotation is very strong at the top, with Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz, but very questionable at the end, with converted reliever Daniel Bard, swing man Alfredo Aceves and the questionable Vicente Padilla, Carlos Silva and Aaron Cook as the other options.

Boston badly wanted to sign another starter, but Jackson is now out of the picture, and it appears that Roy Oswalt will hold out for a chance to go to one of his two favored teams, the Cardinals or the Rangers.




Posted on: November 18, 2011 2:31 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2011 6:25 pm
 

Draft-bonus revamp is the big flaw in new CBA

Baseball does not need a salary cap. The results show it.

The owners no longer push for it, and that's probably the biggest reason labor agreements now get done so smoothly in this sport, and why the newest deal is now on track to be formally announced early next week, according to sources.

Details of the new agreement remain somewhat sketchy, but some of what we know seems positive. The revamping of draft-pick compensation for signing free agents, in particular, looks like a big improvement; the current system had become awkward and unhelpful to either side. Realignment and expansion of the playoffs are good for the game, too.

And then there are the new rules about the draft itself. Not good.

Commissioner Bud Selig and some owners wanted hard slotting for draft bonuses. While they didn't get that, the union eventually agreed to a system that will penalize teams for overspending on draft bonuses, including taking away future picks for teams that "overspend."

Really bad idea, and here are two reasons why:

First, under the current system, the draft is the best way for mid- and low-revenue teams to keep up with the big spenders. The Rays built a contender by smart drafting and smart spending, and the Nationals, Pirates and Royals are now doing the same.

Second, bigger draft bonuses help baseball as an overall business attract the best athletes available. Curbs on bonuses (combined with a lack of full scholarships given out by college baseball) push good athletes towards football and basketball, and that's bad for baseball.

More on that in a bit, but the worst part of the new system is the potential effect on mid- and low-revenue teams that have come to understand that draft spending is more cost-efficient and productive than free-agent spending.

General managers and scouting directors understand that, and it's why they're near-unanimous in behind-the-scenes opposition to the new rules. Owners who say that they want to build teams on scouting and player development (which is most of them) should understand that, but obviously don't.

Maybe they need to go and run teams themselves.

Look at the experience of Frank Coonelly.

When he worked for Selig, he was responsible for screaming at teams that spent more than baseball recommended. When he went to work for the Pirates at club president, he started to ignore the limits himself.

"It only took for him to be in the system to understand," said agent Scott Boras, who represented the Pirates' top two picks last summer, and negotiated above-slot deals for both (for a combined $13 million). "[These new rules] illustrate that those in the commissioner's office are not in the system."

Boras has data to back up a point I've made for a long time, which is that almost all of the biggest draft bonuses turned out to be good deals. The Nationals certainly don't regret the $25 million combined they spent to sign Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper.

Imagine how much they'd need to spend to add that kind of talent through free agency.

Imagine if the Pirates (pre-Coonelly) had paid Matt Wieters $6 million out of the draft in 2007, rather than passing on him because he wanted "above-slot" money. If they had Wieters, they wouldn't have had to give Rod Barajas $4 million to be their catcher in 2012, let alone have paid Ryan Doumit almost $9 million for the last two seasons.

Selig's backers would no doubt argue that in a true slotting system, Wieters would have accepted the slot number the Pirates were offering, because he couldn't make more money by slipping to a lower-drafting but higher-paying team.

But this new system doesn't provide for true slots. If the Pirates passed on Wieters because he was too expensive (and they didn't want to risk losing a future draft pick), a team like the Yankees could sign him for big money and say, "Forget the future pick." Their future pick is going to be lower in the first round, anyway, and it's not of nearly as much value to them as the Pirates' pick is to Pittsburgh.

It's a bad system, but there are ways to fix it.

One possibility: Allow each team one exception pick a year, where the bonus wouldn't count against draft-pick penalties. Or even allow an exception every other year.

Or, if you really want to allow the draft to serve the teams that need it most, allow an exception to teams drafting higher.

The point is, the new system already needs fixing -- and it can be fixed.

Baseball needs to allow the draft to benefit the teams that need it most, and it needs to allow the system to benefit the sport, by helping to attract the best talent.

Without significant signing bonuses, Bubba Starling is playing football at Nebraska, instead of playing baseball for the Royals. And Archie Bradley is playing football at Oklahoma, instead of playing baseball for the Diamondbacks.

Baseball is better for having signed them, and two teams that need to develop through scouting and the draft are better for it, too.

The new system isn't a disaster, but it's not good. The bigger news, though, is that baseball once again has labor peace.

And no salary cap.

Some fans, especially fans of small-market teams, remain convinced that a cap would help. But baseball has proven that it doesn't need one.

While it's true that big-spending teams enjoy an advantage, it's also true that smart management is even more important. The low-spending Rays have made the playoffs three of the last four years (same as the Yankees, and one more time than the Red Sox).

With no cap, baseball has had nine different champions in the last 11 years. And the Cardinals, one of the two repeat champs, did it without a super-high payroll.

The Yankees annually spend far more than everyone else, yet the Yankees have won just one of those last 11 World Series.

Good thing, too. Because if the Yankees were winning every year, you can bet that the other owners would have been pushing for a cap.

Instead, the owners pushed through a new deal that has some pluses -- and one significant minus.

Posted on: November 2, 2011 9:07 pm
 

Let the Gerrit Cole hype begin


The Gerrit Cole hype will never match the Stephen Strasburg hype.

Unless . . .

Well, the word out of the Arizona Fall League is that Cole, the top pick in the June draft, is everything the Pirates could have hoped for. The buzz is that Cole has . . .

"As live a fastball as I've ever seen, and I'm going back to Nolan Ryan," one veteran scout (who doesn't work for the Pirates) said after returning from Arizona. "The first time I saw him, he was sitting at 100, 101 [mph]. He had a better fastball than Strasburg.

"They knew it was coming, and they still couldn't start fast enough to crank it up. He could have struck out big-league hitters with his fastball that day."

Cole's numbers in Arizona are good, but not stunning. In four games, he has pitched 12 innings, allowing four earned runs on eight hits, with three walks and 12 strikeouts.

The scout said that Cole's secondary pitches need work, and that even the velocity on his fastball could be inconsistent. The game after he pitched at 100-101 mph, Cole was throwing his fastball at 95 mph.

"But the life on his fastball was so impressive," the scout said.

The same scout also came away impressed with Danny Hultzen, the Mariners prospect who was taken just behind Cole in the June draft.

As for Bryce Harper, the first pick overall in 2010, the scout said the Nationals shouldn't be counting on him as a major-league difference-maker in 2012.

"He's not that bat they're missing, not yet," the scout said. "He's about a year away. He reminds me of a young J.D. Drew, but he loves to play."


Posted on: November 11, 2010 1:49 pm
 

Harper makes huge fall impression

Bryce Harper has played in only seven games so far in his professional career. He has just one home run.

And scouts can't stop talking about him.

"I haven't ever seen a guy that young swing a bat that hard," said one scout just back from the Arizona Fall League, where the just-turned-18 Harper is playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions. "I could see him in the big leagues at 19 or 20."

Said another: "He's unbelievable, walking in like that and facing Double-A and Triple-A pitchers. Just to watch him in batting practice is a pleasure. He's hitting balls over the light towers."

Harper, the first pick in the June draft, signed with the Nationals on Aug. 16, so this is his first game action as a pro. Because he was a late addition to the Scorpions roster, he only plays two games a week.

In his first seven games, Harper has hit .357 (10-for-28), but also has struck out 10 times.

It's not just his bat that has impressed the scouts. Harper was a catcher in high school and college, but the Nationals have moved him to the outfield and it's apparently been a smooth transition.

"One game I saw, a guy hit a ball that was going to be a triple," one of the scouts said. "It was in the right-field corner, 340 feet away. He got there and threw a clothesline strike to third base. The ball never touched the ground."

Category: MLB
Posted on: July 25, 2010 10:39 pm
 

3 to watch: The Draw of power edition

Scott Boras says people are drawn to power, as in power pitching or power hitting. He says it's why everyone seems to want to see power pitcher Stephen Strasburg (a client of his), and he argues that it will also be true with top draft pick and power hitter Bryce Harper (another client).

Fair enough, but if people really are drawn to power, they should be drawn to the Alex Rodriguez (also a client) push for 600 home runs.

So far, the feeling is that they haven't been, at least not nationally and only to a small extent locally. But it was hard to tell last week, because the Yankees were playing at home and they always draw near-capacity crowds, chase or no chase.

There were some signs that fans in New York cared, based on the noise and flashbulbs that accompanied each A-Rod at-bat after he reached 599 on Thursday night, and by the disappointment when an A-Rod at-bat after that ended without a home run.

But no newspapers from outside the area staffed the try for 600. No national television crews showed up.

So here's the question: With A-Rod taking the chase to Cleveland, will Indians fans show in anything like the numbers they did to see Strasburg pitch at Progressive Field last month?

The Strasburg game, on a Sunday afternoon, drew 32,876, which is still the only Indians crowd of more than 26,000 since opening day. The Indians are last in baseball in attendance (yes, behind even the Marlins).

Strasburg's first nine starts have averaged 36,351, and more of the games have been on some form of national television.

On to 3 to watch:

1. So what are the chances that A-Rod gets to 600 in Yankees at Indians, Monday night (7:05 EDT) at Progressive Field ? Well, he's a .375 career hitter against Tribe starter Jake Westbrook, but that includes just one home run in 24 at-bats. And what are the chances that the A-Rod chase for 600 goes on beyond this three-game series in Cleveland? Well, A-Rod went homerless in 15 at-bats in a four-game series in Cleveland last year, and he went homerless in 13 at-bats in a four-game series in Cleveland the year before. In all, he's homerless in his last 32 at-bats at Progressive Field. Either that means he's due, or it means the chase will head for Tampa Bay this weekend. At least we know that A-Rod will play this week, or at least that he plans to. After he was hit on the hand by a pitch Sunday, Rodriguez said there was "no question" he would be in the lineup Monday.

2. When the Angels traded for Dan Haren on Sunday, manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that there's a chance Haren's first Angel start will come right away, in Red Sox at Angels, Monday night (10:05 EDT) at Angel Stadium . If Haren starts instead on Tuesday, he would face ex-Angel John Lackey in Lackey's first Anaheim start as a visitor. Either way, Haren's second Angels start could be just as interesting, because there's a chance that it would be next Sunday night, against Rangers acquisition Cliff Lee.

3. Strasburg's first nine starts have been against nine different opponents. That streak ends with Strasburg's next start, in Braves at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park . But this will be Strasburg's first meeting with fellow hyped rookie Jason Heyward, because Heyward went on the disabled list on June 28, the same night Strasburg lost 5-0 to the Braves in Atlanta. Remember, that was the game when Ian Desmond couldn't turn a double play that might have allowed Strasburg to hold the Braves scoreless through seven innings.

Posted on: June 6, 2010 8:31 pm
 

3 to watch: The Perfect prospects edition

The two biggest early-season trends in baseball, we said last week, were perfect games and imperfect umpires.

We missed a trend: Perfect prospects.

Jason Heyward. Stephen Strasburg. Mike Stanton.

And don't forget Bryce Harper.

Monday, the Nationals are expected to use the first pick of the draft on Harper, touted as the best power-hitting prospect scouts have seen in ages. Tuesday, the Nationals will show off Strasburg, touted as the best pitching prospect anyone has ever seen. That same night, the Marlins will show off Stanton, who is only leading all of professional baseball in home runs.

Take it a day farther, and you have Stanton and the Marlins facing Roy Halladay on Wednesday, just 11 days after Halladay's perfect game in Florida.

So there you have it, the perfect convergence, with one of the perfect game pitchers facing one of the perfect prospects.

Let's hope that doesn't mean we're headed for more imperfect umpiring.

On to this week's 3 to watch:

1. The Nationals attracted their biggest crowd since opening day last Friday, which if you remember was the rumored day for Strasburg's debut. A much bigger crowd is expected for Pirates at Nationals, Tuesday night (7:05 EDT) at Nationals Park , since this really is going to be Strasburg's debut. What, you thought everyone just wants to see the Pirates? The Washington Post suggested it's the "most buzzed-about happening" in Washington since the Obama inauguration. That might be a little much, but you get the idea -- this is a big deal.

2. So if Armando Galarraga throws a no-hitter, in Tigers at White Sox, Tuesday night (8:10 EDT) at U.S. Cellular Field , does he count as having tied Johnny Vander Meer? Or actually one-upped him, since neither of Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters was a perfect game, let alone a 28-out perfect game? One more thing to think about, in the admittedly very unlikely event that Galarraga is perfect again: Before last Wednesday, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had been planning to skip Galarraga's turn this time through the rotation.

3. Thanks to Stanton, who hit 21 home runs in 52 games at Double-A Jacksonville, the Marlins lineup that Halladay will face, in Marlins at Phillies, Wednesday night (7:05 EDT) at Citizens Bank Park , will not be the same one he faced on May 29 in Miami. But at least it's still the same team. Of the last 11 pitchers to pitch a perfect game (not including Galarraga), Halladay will be just the second to face the same team later in the same year. The only other pitcher to do it in the division play era (i.e. since 1969) was David Wells in 1998. Three months after his May 17 perfect game against the Twins, he saw them again -- and shut them out again, this time on four hits.
 
 
 
 
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