Prepare yourself for a neverending string of Bryce Harper hyperbole because, well, he just might be that good. Not only is Bryce Harper good, he is also a versatile member of the Nationals. He quite literally does it all.
Part of the doing everything shtick that Bryce Harper has going on includes performing very rare feats, like hitting home runs off Jonny Venters. The below shot is just the sixth home run ever allowed by Venters, third by a lefty. Only Joey Votto can claim to be a left-handed batter who hit a home run to left field off Jonny Venters. It is a feat of note. Jonny Venters has faced 792 batters in his career. Six home runs allowed. Six.
Being as talented as Bryce Harper is, his Washington Nationals are determined to extract the most value they can from their young phenom. Despite being drafted as a catcher, Harper is actually a valuable defender in the outfield, creating outs with his arm and covering plenty of ground. Even though he has just 128 games in the minor leagues, the Nationals are putting his athleticism to the test.
Entering today, Harper logged 58 innings in left field, 38 innings in center field, and 146 innings in right field. Ho-hum, just another 19-year old slugger playing all three outfield spots. That happens pretty often, if memory serves correctly.
In addition to getting a lot out of Harper on the defensive side, the Nationals aren’t bashful about moving Harper around in the batting order. Usually we hear pat lines about players “needing consistency” and how management is “unwilling to put pressure” on young players during their first trip around the league. Not the Nats.
After starting Harper in the seventh slot in the batting order, the Nats moved the young lefty up to number three hole after just four games. A five game jaunt in the traditional power slot got the Nationals experimenting, moving Harper to second and down to fifth, trying to make the most of his considerable power and on base skills.
Including today’s start, the Nats seem comfortable with Harper hitting second, where he has been for eight straight games. Not only is this consistent with modern baseball thinking (best hitters 1,2 & 4) but it gets Harper (marginally) more plate appearances over the long haul. For what it is worth (not much), the second slot agrees with Harper, who sports a 1.021 OPS when starting the game in the on deck circle.
Bryce Harper is a good hitter and exciting baseball player. He does all the little things you would ever want from a young player, from signing autographs to hustling all the time. This hustle double/single-and-error against the Braves on Saturday is the kind of stuff you just don’t see very often, especially from players with more than enough talent to coast. He’s pretty good, the Nationals are very lucky. As are we all.