Ryan Zimmerman needing a stint on the disabled list certainly isn’t a surprise considering the third baseman’s shoulder injury hasn’t shown any improvement, but the Nationals’ choice to replace him on the roster is a shocker.
General manager Mike Rizzo announced that Bryce Harper will be called up from Triple-A tomorrow to make his MLB debut this weekend at Dodger Stadium, which seemingly comes out of nowhere given that the top prospect was hitting just .250 with a .333 on-base percentage and .375 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A.
Despite that lackluster production, Harper is coming to the majors at age 19 and with a grand total of 57 games above Single-A. Presumably the Nationals wouldn’t call him up to do anything but play every day, which means Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and Xavier Nady will lose outfield playing time and Mark DeRosa may see most of his remaining action paired with Chad Tracy at third base.
Harper’s arrival is coming significantly sooner and after significantly less success at Triple-A than anyone could have expected, with Rizzo admitting that “this isn’t the optimal situation developmentally.” However, it’s also worth noting that by keeping him in the minors for even a few weeks the Nationals have likely delayed his eventual free agency by an extra year.
UPDATE: Adding to the drama? Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the Nationals tomorrow.
UPDATE #2: Rizzo said the plan is for Harper to play left field, where he started just two twice in 20 games at Triple-A, and the GM indicated that there’s no guarantee he’ll stay in the majors once Zimmerman returns.
Former first base and infield coach Nick Leyva was promoted to senior advisor of baseball operations on Saturday, per a report by Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The Pirates also fired third base coach Rick Sofield, with no named successor as of yet.
Leyva joined the Pirates’ organization in the 2011 offseason as a third base coach under manager Clint Hurdle. He shifted to his role as the first base coach and infield coach in 2014, when first base coach Rick Sofield was reassigned to third base prior to the 2015 season. According to Biertempfel, the swap was made in order to optimize the team’s baserunning strategies, all of which appeared to fall flat during the 2015 and 2016 seasons:
The results this season were awful. The Pirates ranked 13th in the National League with a minus-7.0 BsR — a FanGraphs.com metric that measures how many runs above or below league average a team gets via its baserunning.
In 2013 and 2014, the Pirates had one of the top five BsR ratings in the NL. In 2015, they were seventh with a 2.8 BsR.
This season, the Pirates made the second-most outs at third base in the league and were last in taking extra bases on singles and doubles. Their baserunners went from first to third base on hits a league-low 63 times.
Sofield, in particular, highlighted the Pirates’ poor baserunning choices in games like this one, when he sent Sean Rodriguez home too early during the last vestige of a ninth inning rally against the Phillies.
Following the announcement, Pirates’ GM Neal Huntington issued a statement elaborating on Leyva’s role within the organization:
We have great respect and appreciation for both men. We thank them for their time and effort as part of our Major League team and the Pirates organization. It was a difficult decision, but we felt it was the right time to make this change on our Major League staff. We look forward to Nick’s continued impact in his future role with the Pirates. Nick has held nearly every coaching position at the major league level and at the minor league level, including Major League manager, in his extensive career and will be a quality mentor for our minor league managers, coaches and players.
With Game 6 of the NLCS just hours away, the Dodgers will opt for a lefty-heavy lineup against right-hander Kyle Hendricks. Batting leadoff is rookie outfielder Andrew Toles, who made one appearance at the top of the lineup during the 2016 season. The Cubs, meanwhile, will bench Jason Heyward in favor of Albert Almora Jr.. This will be Almora’s first start of the playoffs, and while he has yet to face Kershaw in October, his right-handed bat could play well against the lefty at the bottom of the lineup.
Game time is scheduled for 8 PM EDT; lineups are below.
1. Andrew Toles (L) LF
6. Wilson Contreras (R) C
8. Albert Almora Jr. (R) RF
9. Kyle Hendricks (R) RHP