Bryce Harper helps Scottsdale Scorpions to AFL crown

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Bryce Harper is a winner!  Or something.

From MLB.com comes word that the 18-year-old outfield prospect led his Scottsdale Scorpions over the Peoria Javelinas Saturday in the championship game of the Arizona Fall League.  Harper drove in a run in the 3-2 victory, capping off a truly impressive fall campaign in the prospect-packed AFL.

Harper finished up with a .343 batting average, .410 on-base percentage and .629 slugging percentage over 35 at-bats.  He hit three doubles, two triples and a home run, also stealing a base and drawing four walks.

The Nationals were hesitant about sending Harper to the desert this fall because they were worried he might flop against a steep level of competition.  But he proved more than capable and should be allowed to kick off the 2011 season at a high level of Single-A.

If all goes according to plan, Harper should be able to climb his way to Double-A by the end of the new year.

Brandon McCarthy wins final spot in Dodgers’ rotation

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We learned on Monday that Hyun-Jin Ryu won one of the final two spots in the Dodgers’ starting rotation. Brandon McCarthy has won the other, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reports. Alex Wood was McCarthy’s competitor for the spot.

McCarthy, 33, posted a 4.85 ERA across four appearances spanning 13 innings this spring, yielding seven earned runs on 14 hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. Wood, a southpaw, gave up five earned runs in six innings against the Reds on Tuesday, which might have factored into the decision.

Last season, McCarthy made nine starts and one relief appearance, posting a 4.95 ERA with a 44/26 K/BB ratio in 40 innings. In the event McCarthy falters, the club has Wood as well as Julio Urias and the injured Scott Kazmir as potential replacements.

Yankees re-sign Jon Niese to a minor league deal

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The Yankees have re-signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, George A. King III of the New York Post reports. Niese was released on Sunday, but he’ll stick around and provide rotation depth for the Yankees.

Niese had knee surgery last August and got a late start to spring training as a result. In six spring appearances lasting an inning each, the lefty gave up three earned runs on five hits and a walk with five strikeouts.

Niese, a veteran of nine seasons, put up an aggregate 5.50 ERA with an 88/47 K/BB ratio in 121 innings last season between the Pirates and Mets.