Bryce Harper is in the Nationals’ lineup tonight for the first time since he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb on April 25. While the 21-year-old is making the start in left field tonight, he offered some pointed comments to Chase Hughes of CSNWashington.com this afternoon about where he’d prefer to play.
Basically, Harper believes that he should play center field while Ryan Zimmerman should start in left and Danny Espinosa should start at second base. This would leave Denard Span as the odd-man out. However, Nationals manager Matt Williams has Espinosa on the bench tonight, with Zimmerman at third base and Span in center field.
“I’m in the lineup, that’s all that matters. If I had the lineup it would maybe not be the same. But he’s got the lineup card, he’s got the pen and he knows what he’s doing. There’s nothing I can do about it,” he said.
“I think [Zimmerman] is great and he should be playing left. Rendon’s a great third baseman and he should be playing third. And we got one of the best second basemen in the league in Danny Espinosa. Of course you want the best hitting lineup in there, and I think Rendon playing third and Zim playing left is something that is good for this team and I think that should be what’s happening.”
No offense, Bryce, but calling Espinosa “one of the best second baseman in the league” is a bit of a stretch. While he is a solid defender, he’s batting just .217/.284/.348 this season and has struck out in nearly 35 percent of his plate appearances.
Williams was informed about Harper’s opinion on the lineup and simply said that he’s “happy to have him back.” It’s worth noting that the Nationals haven’t committed to keeping Harper in left field permanently and had him play all three outfield positions during his minor league rehab assignment, so we’ll likely see some shuffling in the starting lineup in the days to come.
The Yankees signed first-round draft pick Clarke Schmidt and second-round pick Matt Sauer on Saturday, per a team announcement. Schmidt, a right-hander from the University of South Carolina, is set to earn a signing bonus of $2,184,300. According to MLB.com’s Oliver Macklin, that’s much lower than the typical $3+ million allocated for a No. 16 overall pick. The opposite is true for Sauer, whose projected $2.5 million signing bonus tops the suggested $1.2 million reserved for a No. 54 pick.
Schmidt, 21, boasts an impressive four-pitch repertoire and profiles as a front-end or mid-rotation starter, according to reports from Yankees’ VP of Domestic Amateur Scouting Damon Oppenheimer and ESPN’s Keith Law, among others. He carried a 4-2 record through nine starts in 2017 and turned in a 1.34 ERA before undergoing season-ending Tommy John surgery last month to repair a torn UCL in his right elbow. While the Yankees won’t see him pitch at any level until late 2018, they seem confident in his makeup and ability to rebound over the next couple of years.
Fellow right-hander and Righetti High School senior Matt Sauer is a different story altogether. The 18-year-old hurler appears destined for the bullpen with a polished fastball-slider combo and a promising curveball and changeup. He dazzled on the mound this year, going 9-1 with an 0.98 ERA and two shutouts over 78 1/3 innings. While the Yankees seem most interested in his pitching skills, Sauer showed some pop at the plate as well, touting a .427 average with 24 RBI through 135 plate appearances.
The Athletics followed Friday’s 3-0 shutout with a rookie-led home run derby on Saturday afternoon, watching not one, not two, but three rookies belt their first major league home runs off of the White Sox’ James Shields.
Right fielder Matt Olson was the first to strike, taking Shields deep on a first-pitch, two-run blast in the first inning for his first home run in 49 major league plate appearances:
Fellow outfielder Jaycob Brugman duplicated his teammate’s results in the second inning with a solo home run, his first extra-base hit of any kind since he made his debut on June 9:
In the third, with a comfortable 4-0 lead backing two scoreless frames from Oakland right-hander Daniel Gossett, Franklin Barreto took his shot at Shields. After getting the call several hours prior to Saturday’s game, he became the fastest of the three rookies to record his first big league homer, going yard on a 2-2 changeup and driving in Bruce Maxwell to give the A’s a six-run advantage.
The Athletics currently lead the White Sox 8-2 in the top of the sixth inning.