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April 30, 2012

What You Need to Know

Monday, April 30

by Daniel Rathman

The Weekend Takeaway
During a weekend series highlighted by Matt Kemp’s 10th-inning walk-off homer in Saturday’s 4-3 Dodgers victory, the Nationals got a glimpse into their future—a future that likely will not include many more sweeps at the hands of the Dodgers.

Top prospect Bryce Harper arrived with a bang on Saturday, and while Kemp ultimately stole the show, the 19-year-old phenom immediately displayed the tools that will soon make him a superstar. Harper rocketed a high Chad Billingsley fastball over Kemp’s head to straightaway center for a double, fired an 80-grade bullet home from left field, and drove in the go-ahead run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly that would have won the game if not for a Henry Rodriguez meltdown in the bottom half of the frame.

The Nationals went quietly in a 2-0 shutout loss on Sunday, but Harper contributed a 1-for-3 effort with a walk. Playing center field in the majors for the first time, Harper also took a double away from Juan Uribe with a leaping grab at the wall. Though he was shifted to left later in the game, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Harper showed enough athleticism that manager Davey Johnson may play him in center regularly when the Nats get Mike Morse back from the disabled list in June.

After a travel day today, the Nationals will begin a six-game homestand against the Diamondbacks and Phillies on Tuesday. With Ryan Zimmerman joining Morse on the shelf, the 14-8 Nats needed a boost—and Harper-mania has given them just that.

What to Watch for on Monday

  • The lone matinee of the day will feature the major-league debut of Diamondbacks lefty Patrick Corbin as he takes on the Marlins and Mark Buehrle (12:40 p.m. ET). A command-and-control type, Corbin ranked 12th on Kevin Goldstein’s prospect list for Arizona but has since raised his stock by posting a 1.67 ERA and 25-to-8 K/BB over 27 innings for Double-A Mobile. With higher-ceiling prospects on his heels, Corbin will need to establish himself quickly to stick in the rotation.
  • Tommy Milone, another young lefty, has managed to squeak through his first four starts with the A’s, logging a 2.00 ERA despite only fanning 13 batters in 27 innings. His control-oriented approach worked in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Coliseum, Angel Stadium, and Safeco Field, but it’ll be tested at Fenway Park tonight (7:10 p.m. ET). Pitching on an extra day of rest, Milone could certainly use some additional oomph on his fastball, which has averaged just over 88 mph to date.
  • After Friday’s deadline passed with no objections to the sale of the Dodgers to the Stan Kasten/Magic Johnson-led group, the transfer from Frank McCourt should be completed today. Meanwhile, a Rangers loss in Toronto coupled with a Dodgers win in Colorado would give Don Mattingly’s team the best record in baseball.

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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