Nobody has cared about an instructional league game this much since, well, Stephen Strasburg last October. Oh well, here goes.
Nationals top prospect Bryce Harper made his unofficial pro debut earlier today, going 0-for-2 with a pair of strikeouts, reports Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.
Harper struck out swinging on both occasions, according to Gonzalez, being caught out in front on a pair of off-speed pitches. The teenage hitting sensation started the game in right field, but sat down after five innings. Harper took the experience of his first pro game in stride, however.
“When you haven’t seen pitching for five months, it’s a little hard.”
“Everybody gets their Spring Training. This is mine.”
Little do the Nationals know, his now absent streaking eye black is actually the source of his super powers.
The instructional league schedule, which consists of 16 games, wraps up on October 12. According to Gonzalez, the Nationals want to see how Harper fares in his current “controlled environment” before they decide whether to send him to the prospect-rich Arizona Fall League. For entertainment’s sake, I hope he’s included.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Orioles “are moving aggressively on Manny Machado trade talks and now believe they can trade him by the end of the week.” There are reportedly “strong offers” for Machado from both the White Sox, per Ken Rosenthal, and the Cardinals, per Nightengale. The Giants, Red Sox, Phillies, and Yankees are also reportedly involved in talks, though it does seem unlikely that the O’s would trade Machado to a division rival.
Machado, 25, is a guy around which a team could build a franchise. The Orioles, however, seem resigned to the notion that they will not be able to sign him to a long term contract once he hits free agency a year from now. If they do deal him, it would not be terribly shocking to see the O’s just go all-in with a full rebuild, putting relievers Brad Brach and Zach Britton and outfielder Adam Jones on the market, given that they too can become free agents following the 2018 season.
Machado had a down 2017, hitting .259/.310/.471, but still hit 33 homers and drove in 95 runs. In the two years prior he posted OPSs of .876 and .861. As such, the price for a team to acquire him will be high, even if he’s entering his walk year.