Bryce Harper has no chance of actually making the Opening Day roster, but the 18-year-old No. 1 overall pick is in big-league camp and Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that his spring training debut will come Monday as the Nationals open the exhibition schedule versus the Mets.
Harper, who was named the top prospect in the game by Baseball America earlier this week, will travel to the Mets’ ballpark in Port St. Lucie and is expected to come off the bench for at least one at-bat.
Zuckerman writes that Harper’s “spring training playing time is expected to be minimal” and “he’s unlikely to start any games” before presumably being among the Nationals’ first cuts about two weeks from now. Or as manager Jim Riggleman put it: “I’m hoping that he kind of blends in. I’m not looking for him to excel against major-league pitching.”
Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.
Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.
Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.