The Nationals are said to be open to the idea of top prospect Bryce Harper opening the 2012 season in the major leagues. So while most spring training stats don’t matter, Harper’s numbers just might.
According to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, the 19-year-old outfielder went 1-for-3 with a single and two sharp groundouts Saturday in the Nats’ Grapefruit League opener against the Astros.
After the game — a 3-1 loss — Harper addressed the rumblings that he has a chance of breaking camp with the big league club:
“I don’t even think about it when I go out there,” Harper told reporters. “If I play my game and do things right, I’ve got a shot. I’m not going to try to do too much. I’m just going to roll with what I get. … I’m just out there playing. Just trying to get at-bats, trying to see pitches.”
Harper has compiled a .297/.392/.501 batting line, 17 home runs, 24 doubles and 26 stolen bases in 109 career minor league games. He’s been named Baseball America‘s No. 1 prospect two years in a row.
The Mariners signed free agent left-hander Wade LeBlanc to a one-year deal, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reported Saturday. LeBlanc previously signed a minor league agreement with the Yankees, but later requested his release following the team’s Grapefruit League outing on Friday. The Mariners have yet to confirm the deal or disclose its terms.
This is LeBlanc’s second stint with the Mariners in two years. He was initially acquired by Seattle in the summer of 2016 after the Blue Jays traded him for cash considerations, and produced a 4.50 ERA, 1.6 BB/9 and 7.4 SO/9 in 50 innings before getting designated for assignment in August. The 33-year-old southpaw was last seen in the majors with the Pirates, with whom he generated another 4.50 ERA, 2,3 BB/9 and 7.1 SO/9 over 68 innings in 2017. He entered free agency after the club declined his $1.25 million option for 2018.
The signing comes at a fortuitous moment for the Mariners, who were pressed to find additional bullpen depth after right-handed reliever David Phelps tore his ulnar collateral ligament last week. As with most injuries of that kind, Phelps is expected to undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the entire 2018 season. LeBlanc made a full transition to the bullpen in 2017 and boasts the kind of reverse platoon splits (.216/.270/.389 vs. righties and .292/.333/.500 vs. lefties in 2017) that will make him an effective replacement for the right-handed Phelps.