Nationals GM rules out calling up Bryce Harper this season

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During a radio interview today Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it very clear that 18-year-old stud prospect Bryce Harper won’t be playing in the majors this season.

Here’s an excerpt from the interview, via Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:

It’s not gonna happen, because he’s not ready for that to happen. He’s got to learn the nuances of the game of baseball. We certainly don’t want to push him to a level where he’s overmatched and struggles even for a short period of time. We’re just not going to put him in a place where he has a chance to fail until we feel he’s 100 percent ready for that level.

When he is, we will certainly bring him up because, you know, we want to win as bad as anybody else. There’s nobody that wants to win worse than I do. Believe me, if I felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right now and perform in the big leagues right now, he would be up in the big leagues. If he gave us the best chance to win, he’d be up there and trying to help us win.

That’s not quite true, of course, because Stephen Strasburg clearly gave the Nationals “the best chance to win” immediately after he joined the organization and they waited to call him up until sufficiently delaying his service time. None of which is to say that Rizzo is anything but correct about keeping Harper in the minors.

He’s destroying Single-A as an 18-year-old, which speaks to his amazing long-term upside, but it doesn’t mean he’d also destroy Triple-A pitching as an 18-year-old, let alone big-league pitching. And the Nationals aren’t going anywhere this season anyway, so Harper can develop at a reasonable but rapid pace and likely reach Washington at some point in 2012–when he’ll still be all of 19 years old–all while keeping his pre-free agency clock from ticking.

Orioles sign Alcides Escobar

Alcides Escobar
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The Orioles have inked shortstop Alcides Escobar to a minor league contract, MLB.com’s Joe Trezza reported Saturday. The deal comes with an invitation to spring training and will allow Escobar to earn $700,000 in the majors if he breaks camp with the team (via Jon Heyman of MLB Network). The team has yet to formally announce the agreement.

Escobar, 32, completed an eight-year run with the Royals in 2018. No longer the .280-average, 3.0-fWAR player of seasons past, he hit several career lows after batting .231/.279/.313 with four home runs, eight stolen bases (in 10 chances), and a .593 OPS through 531 plate appearances last year. His defensive ratings also took a hit, and FanGraphs pegged him as the fourth-worst shortstop in the majors after he accumulated -12 DRS over the course of the season, only slightly higher than the Orioles/Dodgers’ Manny Machado, Mets’ Amed Rosario, and Red Sox’ Xander Bogaerts.

Still, Heyman holds that Escobar is being considered for the starting gig this spring and could yet prove an upgrade over top prospects and infield candidates Richie Martin and Drew Jackson. At the very least, the veteran shortstop figures to stabilize the position given Martin and Jackson’s relative inexperience, as both infielders played to varying results in Double-A Tulsa last year and have yet to break into the majors. Should either player earn consideration for the position in camp, however, Escobar might still work his way onto the Opening Day roster in a utility role as he saw some time at third base, second base, and center field in 2018.