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.

  • Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery could share Cubs’ rotation spot in 2017

    CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 01:  Mike Montgomery #38 of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the seventh inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game Six of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on November 1, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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    Cubs’ manager Joe Maddon hasn’t selected a fifth starter for his 2017 rotation yet, but told reporters that he could envision left-handers Brett Anderson and Mike Montgomery sharing the spot throughout the year. Neither pitcher was stretched out to the full 200-inning threshold last year, Maddon added, and suggested that the two could alternate innings out of the rotation and bullpen as needed (via MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat).

    Anderson, 29, was acquired by the Cubs in January on a $3.5 million deal. He’s coming off a rough 2016, during which he underwent back surgery and missed all but 11 1/3 innings of his last season with the Dodgers. His last full, healthy year in the majors yielded a 3.69 ERA, 2.3 BB/9 and 5.8 SO/9 over 180 1/3 innings with Los Angeles in 2015.

    Montgomery, meanwhile, is vying for a rotation spot after pitching almost exclusively from the bullpen during the second half of the Cubs’ 2016 run. The 27-year-old lefty put up a 2.82 ERA, 4.7 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 38 1/3 innings for Chicago last year, returning in the postseason to post a 3.14 ERA during the Cubs’ championship finish.

    Maddon also mentioned the possibility of throwing a sixth starter into the mix, which would help prevent his other starters from getting overworked too early in the year. Either way, Anderson and Montgomery are expected to get a lot of looks early in spring training as rotation spots are finalized in the weeks leading up to Opening Day.

    Michael Bourn to miss four weeks with a broken finger

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 6:  Michael Bourn #1 of the Baltimore Orioles looks out of the dugout as he waits to get on deck to bat during the sixth inning of a game against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 6, 2016 at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
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    Orioles’ center fielder Michael Bourn is expected to be sidelined for four weeks while he rehabs a broken ring finger on his right hand, according to reports from the Baltimore Sun’s Peter Schmuck. Bourn broke the finger while playing catch with a football after a spring training workout.

    The veteran outfielder re-signed with the club earlier this week on a minor league deal and was prepared to compete for a bench role this season. He’s in line to receive a $2 million salary if he makes the major league roster and can make an additional $3.5 million in incentives based on a set number of plate appearances. Now, however, his chances of cracking the roster out of spring training look considerably diminished, as his current timetable gives him an approximate return date of March 25 if all goes well.

    Bourn had an impressive, if short-lived run with the Orioles following his trade to Baltimore last August, batting .283/.358/.435 with two home runs and a .793 OPS in 55 PA. While still somewhat removed from the totals that brought him an All-Star nod with the Braves in 2012, his defensive chops should give the Orioles some depth in center once he’s healthy again.