Nationals promote Bryce Harper to Double-A at age 18

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Bryce Harper jumped directly to low Single-A to begin his pro career despite being just 18 years old and after dominating the South Atlantic League for a half-season the Nationals have decided they’ve seen enough from him in the low minors.

Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports that Harper has been promoted to Double-A, bypassing high Single-A in the process, which is remarkable in itself because he’s still four months from his 19th birthday and the average Double-A player is 24 years old. Not only will he be the only teenager in the Eastern League, there are only two hitters in the entire league under 21.

More remarkable is that he actually deserves the promotion after hitting .318 with 14 homers, 17 doubles, 44 walks, and 19 steals in 72 games at Hagerstown to rank second among South Atlantic League hitters with a .977 OPS.

Moving up the ladder so quickly increases Harper’s odds of making his MLB debut late this season and, even failing that, he’s definitely on track to be in Washington by mid-2012. So far at least Harper’s performance has matched the incredible hype and the Nationals are being extremely aggressive with the former No. 1 overall pick/eye black enthusiast.

UPDATE: General manager Mike Rizzo said that Harper probably won’t advance past Double-A this season, but we’ll see whether those plans change if he keeps hitting .320 with power there too.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.