Is it a lock that the Nats will draft Harper?

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Bryce Harper cover small.jpgDave Shenin of the Washington Post doesn’t think so, and offers several
reasons why what everyone things to be a foregone conclusion is not
necessarily forgone.

Among the reasons: Harper hasn’t “separated himself” from the pack like
Strasburg did; He may not stick at catcher, thus diminishing his value;
He’s a Boras client, thus inflating his price; his recent comments
about “second guessing” his fast track to the draft may make people
question his makeup; the Nats have a catching prospect already, in the
form of Derek Norris — he doesn’t mention Jesus Flores, but he’s worth
noting too; and the Nats may contend in 2011, so they might want a more
finished product than Harper.

Those are mostly decent points, though each has a counterargument or two. The one about makeup can go either way,
of course, in that his decision to skip two years of high school, in my
mind at least, raises just as many questions about his maturity and
mental preparedness as his statements showing a lack of confidence now
that he has done so. I’m also not terribly worried about whether he’ll
stick at catcher given that he appears to have a bat that is simply
awesome, not just awesome for a catcher.  Not as valuable at, say,
right field as he is behind the plate, but his bat will play anywhere.

The biggest problem, Shenin notes, is that no other great first round
option has emerged yet.  Some people think differently, and point to
high school pitcher Jameson Taillon, but a high school pitcher, even a
great one, is farther away from the big league level than a hitter like
Harper, so his pluses work against some of the same considerations
Shenin mentions above.

And ultimately Shenin admits that he may be over thinking things.  I think he may be right.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.

Video: Hector Rondon closes it out, Cubs advance past Cardinals to NLCS

Hector Rondon
AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

In the first postseason meeting between the two longtime archrivals, the Chicago Cubs prevailed over the St. Louis Cardinals.

Watch as Cubs closer Hector Rondon whiffs Cardinals outfielder Stephen Piscotty with a nasty 0-2 breaking ball to clinch a Division Series victory and send Wrigley Field into a frenzy (this is actually the first time in franchise history the Cubs have won a playoff series at home) …

Chicago dropped Game 1 but took three straight to finish off St. Louis. Next up is a matchup against either the Dodgers or Mets in the National League Championship Series.

Cardinals miss Martinez even more than Molina

Carlos Martinez

After taking Game 1 of the NLDS in an outstanding performance from John Lackey, the Cardinals dropped three straight to the Cubs by scores of 6-3, 8-6 and 6-4. It’s not difficult at all to imagine a healthy Carlos Martinez swinging one of those games.

Martinez wasn’t the Cardinals’ best starter this year, but he was the one who could shut a team down by himself, with little help from the defense needed. Martinez struck out 184 batters in 179 2/3 innings while going 14-7 with a 3.01 ERA. He left his next-to-last regular season start with a shoulder strain that was going to cost him the entirety of the postseason no matter how far the Cardinals advanced. It was a killer blow for a team whose offense had already been slowed by injuries.

October just came at the wrong time for the Cardinals, what with Martinez down, Yadier Molina nursing a significant thumb injury, Matt Holliday and Randal Grichuk far from 100 percent and Adam Wainwright still weeks short of potentially pulling off a Marcus Stroman-like return to the rotation.

It’s Molina absence Thursday and lack of effectiveness otherwise that serve as a popular explanation/excuse for the Cardinals’ loss. And the downgrade from him to Tony Cruz behind the plate was huge, even if Molina is no longer the hitter he was a couple of years back.

Martinez, though, had the potential to even up the NLDS just by doing what he did in the regular season. And had Martinez been in the rotation, the Cardinals wouldn’t have moved up Lackey to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. They’d have been the clear favorites in a Game 5 Jon Lester-Lackey rematch back in St. Louis, though we’ll never know how that might have worked out.