Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Red-hot Harper doesn't need a break

Associated Press
Bryce Harper went 3-for-3 today and is now hitting .750 for the spring.
Because the calendar still reads February, we're obligated to issue the same caveat that is uttered when discussing just about any player this time of the year: You can't read too much into spring training stats.

OK, now that we've gotten that out of the way, we can turn to the real point of this: Bryce Harper has looked fantastic so far this spring, and there's no reason to think he's going to slow down anytime soon.

With a 3-for-3, two-double performance today in the Nationals' 9-5 loss to the Braves, the second-year, outfielder raised his Grapefruit League batting average to .750 (6-for-8). He's hitting the ball with authority. He's hustling like no one else and taking extra bases at will. And he's rifling throws to the plate from his new regular position in left field.

In other words, Harper is performing this spring exactly as he did throughout his Rookie of the Year campaign.

He doesn't need to do this. Harper isn't trying to convince team officials he deserves a spot on the Opening Day roster like he did the previous two springs. His job is as secure as anyone's on the club, and more and more it's looking like he's going to hit third in Davey Johnson's lineup, in between Jayson Werth and Ryan Zimmerman.

But Harper has never known any way to play baseball other than at full-speed. Or perhaps even full-speed-and-a-half. So that's how he's going to continue playing for the next five weeks before the bell rings for good.

"I feel good going into camp this year, and it's good to know that [Johnson] has already pretty much said: 'You're going to be my everyday left fielder,'" Harper told reporters after today's game. "So, I like that feeling going into every single game.

"But you still have to work and compete and try to get better every day, and that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to try to get my ABs in and try to see as many pitches as I can and just try to barrel up as much as I can without the results. I really don't care about the results right now, as long as I'm barreling stuff up and doing the right things out there that I need to do."

While several veterans have been given the first week of this elongated Grapefruit League season off, Harper has been in the lineup for three of the Nationals' first four games. He was supposed to get tomorrow's home game against the Marlins off, but he convinced Johnson to put him back in the lineup, in part because both Werth and Denard Span will be starting and he wants a chance to play alongside his new-look outfield mates for the first time.

"I had him out of the lineup to rest him, and he said: 'What am I doing out of the lineup? I want in the lineup,'" Johnson explained to reporters. "I'm already getting it. He's in. He talked his way in."

In the two years he's known Harper, Davey has learned a simple truth: It's not worth trying to hold the kid back, because he's not going to let you do it.

For some, this might be a concern. The last thing anyone should be doing right now is exerting themselves too much this early in camp.

But based on what we've seen from him since he was drafted, this really isn't a concern for Harper. Not right now. He's full of too much youthful energy to get tired, and he's too physically fit to be considered an injury risk.

He's a supremely talented ballplayer whose natural abilities are surpassed only by his intense work ethic and desire to perform at the highest level.

Does that make Harper's .750 spring training batting average more meaningful than any other player's late-February stats? No. But it certainly doesn't do anything to quell the sky-high expectations for this season for a 20-year-old who has every reason to believe he can be the best ballplayer on the planet in 2013.

38 comments:

We are the Nationals said...

This kid is making me wish it's already opening day!

Positively Half St. said...

This is very entertaining, but not as entertaining as when he does this in the regular season. While I'm at it, let's make that every season for the rest of his career, all with the Nats.

Ah, that felt good.

+1/2St.

MicheleS said...

Got to love the fact that Bryce is talking his way into the line up of a spring training game.

MicheleS said...

Programming note. On Fox 5 DC tomorrow at 8:45 AM a Young Nats fan get's his TV debut. Matts Bats is on with Dave Ross. I am sure he will be adorable (and some of the grouchy people should watch, might actually melt their hearts)

MurrayTheRed said...

Who is Matts Bats?

Gonat said...

MicheleS, I've read the MattsBats blog and the kid has to be a genius. He writes better than most 20 year olds and he's only 8.

I have to wonder there isn't a "ghost writer" situation.

Gonat said...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghostwriter

tayo said...

An average of .750? Bryce told me those are about close to some of the lofty expectations/goals for this season that he was reluctant to share to the media.

SonnyG10 said...

Wow, I love Bryce Harper. With his desire and drive he would be a great player even without his gifted ability, ala Nellie Fox many years ago. But to have the drive and desire along with the gifted ability...just WOW!!!!

NatsNut said...

what, more excellence on this team? yawn.

;)

Doc said...

Hard to believe that there might be a better manager in MLB for Bryce Aron Max, than Davey.

Without Davey, Harps probably wouldn't have been in the Bigs last year. Wiggleman wouldn't have had the courage, or whatever else, to do it.

Too bad Bryce's parents didn't have triplets!

BigCat said...

"I'm not gettin on that bus without an extension!!" Really Riggs? Well.....bye.

Somewhere Matt Stairs is misty eyed

Rabbit34 said...

Simple. Harper, best player in baseball.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Harper is nowhere near best player in baseball. He may have best potential at ML level right now but he has yet to realize it.

BigCat said...

Harper picking right up where he left off in game 5 against the Cards. As you recall, he tripled off the wall in the first and then homered to deep right in the 3rd to help us build a 6-0.

MicheleS said...

Murray, MattsBatts is an 8 year old who writes about the Nats mattsbats.com.

Gonat. I am sure his mom and dad probably review/edit before it's posted, but you really can tell it's from an 8 year old. Saw him at Nats Fest and he was SOOO geeked up about being there.

Coach Mac said...

Great that Harper wants to play all the time. It's Davey's job to make sure he gets the amount of rest in Spring that is required. This is the kind of stuff that Davey loves. He loves creating some kind of story out of nothing. Davey should have either had him in tomorrow's lineup originally, or else just told him no.

Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me said...

I love Harp in the No. 3 spot.

Gonat said...

MicheleS, that's what I would guess that it's a collaboration with most coming from the parents.

Since Matt seems to be really in to it, that's great.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I told a friend of mine who asked how I thought Bryce would do this year and I said if he hits .340, hits 40 home runs, steals 40 bases and drives in 130 I wouldn't be suprised.

MicheleS said...

NatsJack if he does that..oh my....

BigCat said...

Agree, Davey needs to keep the governor on this guy. Its a loooong year. Also agree he could tear it up this year.

Any word on how Ryan Zim is throwing....if at all. He is probably on a program, on one day off the next

BigCat said...

Interesting that Werth thought the Phillies are going to challenge more than the Braves. Braves picked up the Uptons, but also lost Chipper and Prado.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Wren sat behind us as he usually does when we go to Braves/Nats at Disney. I thanked him for moving Prado and not enticing Larry to forgo retirenent.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

As I have written a few times, if Bryce bats 3rd where you get prime RBI opps, Bryce can be a legit MVP candidate.

BigCat said...

Prado and Chipper.....both Nat Killers. Time will tell about the chemistry in that Braves clubhouse with the Uptons now aboard. Seems like Chipper has been there forever. I won't miss him

Doc said...

Seems like a modest prediction for Brycie Baseball, NatsJack.

Let's hope for it and see what we get!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

I see Bryce at .285 BA and a .355 OBP with 115 RBIs and 32 HRs which puts him solidly in the MVP discussion.

Eventually I see him approaching those 40 HRs. I think pitchers will be pitching around him too much.

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

http://www.baseball-reference.com/friv/birthdays.cgi?month=2&day=27

Denard Span is having a birthday today! In the words of MicheleS WOOOOOOO HOOOOOOOOOOO!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

http://www.myfoxdc.com/story/21393281/8-year-old-blogger-covers-the-nationals#axzz2M6x86fhG

Here's the Matt's Bats link! For 8 years old, he did good. His call is for a lefty specialist!

UnkyD said...

Ghost....
"Eventually I see him approaching those 40 HRs. I think pitchers will be pitching around him too much."
--------------
Pitching around him..... To get to Zim...? This is the conundrum.... You can't pitch around 1-4.... This is gonna be SO much fun!!!

Knoxville Nat said...

"I thanked him for moving Prado and not enticing Larry to forgo retirenent."

Hey Jack, think you can entice Wren in to trading Kimbrell to an AL team?

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

UnkyD, you are correct. If you look at Ryan Braun with Prince Fielder behind him Braun was IBB'd 2 times in 2011. Last year without Prince there, Braun was IBB'd 15 times!

It's called, pick your poison. If Bryce doesn't expand his strike zone and take what they give him, it will be some long innings for the opposing pitchers.

It's exactly how the Phillies did it for several years stacking the middle of their lineup around Howard and Utley.

Bryce's BB% was 9.4% last year which is good.

Rabbit34 said...

Oops. Sorry, I guess I was wrong. I was informed that Harper is nowhere near the best player in baseball. Well, golly gee. Kick my backside! Seriously, everyone is entitled to their opinion and my opinion isn't waivered. Harper is the best baseball player in baseball. He plays the game like it should be played. I am proud to have him as a National!

Ghost Of Steve M. said...

Rabbit, its the intangibles that Harper brings like causing havoc on the base paths and the arm in the outfield that dares baseruners to attempt another base.

Those stats don't show up necessarily in WAR just like his enthusiasm and the energy he brings to the dugout.

I'm not ready to annoint him with "Best" in baseball but I would say top 5 in position players if I was building a team.

Joe Seamhead said...

I also am not ready to say that he is the best player in baseball, but I will say that Bryce Harper may end up being the best baseball player since Mays and Mantle. This kid is really special, and like Mr. Rabbit, I'm thrilled to have him as a National.I'm not sure that I have seen more unbridled enthusiasm than Bryce displays every play.

PlugNPlay said...

If Bryce is the best baseball player in baseball, does that make Nyjer the best hockey player in baseball? Is Chris Young the best basketball player in baseball? Just curious.

Other nominations...
Deion Sanders - the best football player in baseball
Greg Maddux - the best darts player in baseball

Rabbit34 said...

Ghost.....you're on track with me as to what I cconsider a "best" player. I agree with the "top 5" assessment. I just have him at number 1 in the top five! :)!!!!

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