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.

  • Steven Matz likely to start season on DL; Zack Wheeler to adhere to innings limit

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    Mets manager Terry Collins said on Wednesday, “It’s unlikely that [Steven Matz] will start the season with us.” The final spot in the Mets’ starting rotation will go to either Zack Wheeler or Seth Lugo, Newsday’s Marc Carig reports.

    On Wheeler’s innings limit, assistant GM John Ricco said, “There’s going to be some number but we don’t exactly know what that is.” Wheeler missed the last two seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

    Neither Wheeler nor Lugo have had terrific springs as each carries a 5.11 and 5.56 Grapefruit League ERA, respectively. However, Carig notes that Wheeler has impressed simply by appearing healthy and brandishing a fastball that once again sits in the mid- to high-90’s. Lugo, meanwhile, proved crucial to the Mets last year, posting a 2.67 ERA across eight starts and nine relief appearances.

    Rockies sign 30-year lease to stay in Coors Field

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    Nick Groke of the Denver Post reports that the Rockies agreed to a $200 million, 30-year lease with the Metropolitan Baseball Stadium District, which is the state division that owns Coors Field. As part of the deal, the Rockies will lease and develop a plot of land south of the stadium, which will cost the team $125 million for 99 years.

    As Groke points out, had the Rockies not reached a deal by Thursday, March 30, the lease would have rolled over for five more years.

    Rockies owner Dick Monfort issued a statement, saying, “We are proud that Coors Field will continue to be a vital part of a vibrant city, drawing fans from near and far and making our Colorado residents proud.”

    The Rockies moved into Coors Field in 1995. It is the National League’s third oldest stadium. In that span of time, the Rockies have made the playoffs three times, the last coming in 2009 when they lost in the NLDS to the Phillies. The Rockies were swept in the 2007 World Series by the Red Sox.