The Week Ahead: Bryce Harper countdown begins

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Let the Bryce Harper countdown begin.

Harper, the 16-year-old Las Vegas high school star who was christened as the “Chosen One” by Sports Illustrated, is planning to skip his final two seasons of high school in an attempt to be eligible for the 2010 draft.

According to Harper’s father Ron, the phenom has registered at College
of Southern Nevada and will play for the junior college next season in
what would have been his junior year of high school.

Harper plans to earn his GED (high school equivalency) in the fall.

Harper, a 6-foot-3-inch catcher, hit .626 with 14 home runs and 55
RBIs for the Wildcats this season. He also had 36 stolen bases.

With his combination of power and speed, Harper is projected to be
the top pick in the major league draft when he’s eligible. That should
be next June.

The No. 1 pick a 17-year-old from Vegas? It’s possible. In the SI
story, an NL scouting director said Harper would have challenged
Stephen Strasburg for the No. 1 pick this year, at only age 16.

“Top two,” he says. “And that’s taking nothing away from the guys in
the draft this year. He’s honestly that good. He is a
once-in-a-generation talent.”

So let the race for Bryce Harper begin. Leading the way, once again,
are your Washington Nationals. At 16-45, the Nats have a healthy 8½
game lead over the next-worst team, the Arizona Diamondbacks (27-37).

FIVE SERIES TO WATCH


  • Brewers at Indians, June 15-17: The teams meet for just the
    second time since 2001 and Harry Doyle (aka Bob Eucker) will throw out
    the first pitch on Monday night. It’s “Major League” night after all. Don’t forget to pick up your Rick Vaughn bobblehead. I’m not kidding.
  • White Sox at Cubs, June 16-18:
    It’s the battle for the Windy City. And judging by the standings at
    this point, most of the wind is being generated by wild hacks and Ozzie
    Guillen.
  • Tigers at Cardinals, June 16-18: Not only is this a rematch of the 2006 World Series, but both teams are currently in playoff contention.
  • Braves at Red Sox, June 19-21:
    The Red Sox don’t know if John Smoltz will return to the majors this
    week. I suppose it would be too much to ask for the veteran to take the
    mound against his former team over the weekend. Even if it doesn’t
    happen this week, Atlanta writers are anticipating a possible start at Turner Field on June 28.
  • Dodgers at Angels, June 19-21: It’s the Freeway Series, which is
    sort of a laid-back, West Coast version of the Subway Series. Don’t
    expect to hear Ramon Troncoso complaining about Brian Fuentes’ “tired
    act.”

    ON THE TUBE

    Monday, 7:05 p.m. ET: Brewers at Indians (ESPN)
    Wednesday, 7:05 p.m.: Blue Jays at Phillies (ESPN)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Brewers at Tigers (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Cardinals at Royals (FOX)
    *Saturday, 4:10 p.m.: Rays at Mets (FOX)
    Sunday, 1:30 p.m.: Braves at Red Sox (TBS)
    Sunday, 8:05 p.m.: Dodgers at Angels (ESPN)
    *Check local listings

    And finally, for some fantasy tips for this week, click here.

  • Padres sign Trevor Cahill

    Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Trevor Cahill (53) during the seventh inning of Game 3 in baseball's National League Division Series against the St. Louis Cardinals, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Paul Beaty)
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    The Padres have signed Trevor Cahill to a one-year, $1.75 million contract.

    As recently as the middle of the 2015 season it looked like Cahill’s career would meet a premature end, but after being released by the Braves and signing with the Cubs in August of that season he has been a remarkably effective reliever. He has posted a 2.61 ERA in 61 games in Chicago and has posted a strikeout rate far above his career norms.

    He’s not someone you necessarily want taking the hill when the leverage is high, but in San Diego the leverage won’t be all that high all that often.

    Justin Verlander: “I’m too old to be part of a rebuilding process”

    DETROIT, MI - JULY 20: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in the eighth inning of the game against the Minnesota Twins on July 20, 2016 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
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    The Tigers have sent some mixed signals this winter. The offseason began with widespread reports that GM Al Avila was going to break up the team. Indeed, it was reported that he was willing to field offers for any and all players, on up to Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera.

    As the offseason has unfolded, however, a rebuild has not materialized.

    Avila traded away outfielder Cameron Maybin. He signed old friends Omar Infante and Alex Avila. He made the usual sorts of minor league signings every team makes to fill out the roster. Detroit still needs a center fielder and there continue to be rumors that outfielder J.D. Martinez and second baseman Ian Kinsler could be had for the right price, but it’s been pretty quiet at 2100 Woodward Avenue.

    If that changes, however, and the Tigers do start to rebuild, there’s one key member of the team who doesn’t really want a part of it. From the Detroit Free Press:

    Justin Verlander is 33 years and 330 days old.

    He’s not that old.

    But the Detroit Tigers ace right-hander – a 12-year major league veteran – is old enough in baseball years to know that he doesn’t really want to be part of a rebuilding process.

    “Would it have been upsetting for me if we started trading away everybody?” he told MLB Network Radio on Friday morning. “I’m too old to be part of a rebuilding process.”

    Verlander will make $28 million a year for each of the next three seasons and has a vesting option for 2020 if he finishes in the top 5 of the 2019 Cy Young vote. He had an excellent return-to-form in 2016, but his contract is still pretty big for a pitcher with his mileage, making it seem unlikely that he would be moved absent the team eating a huge portion of his salary. The same could be said for Miguel Cabrera who, despite still being one of the best hitters in baseball, is making between $28-32 million between now and 2023. A wonderful player, but an extraordinarily difficult contract to move. Both superstars have full no-trade protection as 10-5 men as well.

    At the moment the rebuild does not seem to be materializing and the Tigers — as I think they should, probably — will enter 2017 aiming for the AL Central crown, not aiming at restocking their farm system.

    But what will Verlander think, however, if the Tigers find themselves out of contention come May? What will he think if Ian Kinsler — a valuable player on a tradable contract — is sold off? Or Justin Upton? Or J.D. Martinez?

    It’s worth watching.