Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper turned heads in big league camp, hitting .389/.450/.556 over 18 at-bats before being sent to minor league camp. Last week, I caught up with some Nationals officials, as well as the best player in the game, to get their early impressions of this spring's most talked-about player. The quotes are compiled answers from a few different questions. . .
"He's handled himself good. He's mature beyond his age. He's absorbing a lot—he's really being a sponge and taking in everything that is major league spring training. We've got a lot of veteran players on this team that are capable of sharing a lot of information with him and he's following my advice when he came to spring training: keep your ears open and your mouth closed. It's very unique, I've never seen this with a player his age. I had Justin Upton, who I think is in that same category and Bryce is beyond Justin, as far as readiness for spring training and readiness for a player and that's a big comparison because Justin Upton is one of the most talented players I ever drafted."
—Mike Rizzo, general manager, Washington Nationals
"I've been pretty impressed that he's been able to handle his own at this level and the way he's read pitches and understands the strike zone. We've all seen him attack the ball and do all the things with the tools he's got. But to see him do that, it looks like he can compete here a little bit. It's pretty exciting. He's an aggressive kid. They're going to knock it out of him a little bit, but he's a pleasure to be around. He plays the game right and you can tell his daddy trained his son very well. He's fun to be around. He's supposed to be playing high school games, so it's pretty amazing what he's done. The big thing is, socially, he's above his years. He interacts with everybody very well and he's fit in in a situation that's sometimes tough to fit in. He's done a great job with that."
—Bob Boone, assistant general manager, Washington Nationals
"He's been outstanding. He's really impressed everybody in camp, not just with his hitting but with his athleticism, his defense, his throwing and his baserunning. He's an aggressive young kid that just needs to play a lot more baseball and experience every situation that can come up and let everything run its course to get him here.
Our media relations department has done a good job to kind of monitor how much time the media gets with him and the demands on him and the organization is very well experienced with this type of stuff to make sure he's not overloaded. The other part of it is that his teammates keep him in check with a little razzing and stuff and they kind of police that also.
He does remind me of somebody, but it's not the answer people want to hear because people want him to be Mickey Mantle. But the guy he reminds me of is Clint Hurdle. Clint was a 19-year-old in Triple-A, the best player in Triple-A at 19, when everybody else in the league at 25. Physically, he's a lefthanded hitter, righthanded thrower, same size as Clint, same skill set and Clint had a very nice career. He didn't have a Mickey Mantle career, but he had a great career, but that's not what people want out of this kid. They want him to be Mickey Mantle right away or Ken Griffey Jr., but Clint was an aggressive animal and a heck of a ballplayer."
—Jim Riggleman, manager, Washington Nationals
"He is very direct to the ball. The bat speed that he possesses when it goes through the zone is tremendous. He generates a lot of torque in his body and with a short swing and a lot of torque, he impacts the ball as hard as anyone in the game, really. What's probably even more impressive is being 18 and being where he is mentally and the adjustments that he's made just in the short time that I've seen him here in big league camp has been such a huge positive. I think the credit goes to his parents for the way he was raised and how he goes about his day and to himself, that through all the hoopla, he's maintained a very level head and a passion to want to be the best and a work ethic that warrants him reaching those goals. All around, he's an impressive young man.
He's taught me a little bit about himself and we sat down and watched some film and he'd describe certain things and talk about himself, so that gives me a chance to learn better. Through that process, I've shared with him some thoughts and some of the plan and the ideas when it comes to hitting at the major league level to give him some of that perspective. The biggest thing right now is just allowing him to get acclimated as a professional in major league camp, his first camp, and allowing him to get his feet wet and get comfortable and settle in. There's a lot going on for him to learn our system, to learn the expectations when it comes to being a professional baseball player, so that whole process in a nutshell is just him getting to learn about us and us getting to learn about him.
He generates a lot and sometimes gets out to his front side too fast, which doesn't allow him to stay behind the baseball. That's one of the things we've talked about and looked at and shared. When you're trying to generate a lot like that and you're not staying behind the ball, a pitch with depth like a cutter or something where the bottom falls out of it, it can put him in a position where he can't do what he knows he can do. When he gets to that front side real fast, he's not staying behind the baseball and not putting himself in the best position to react to different pitches that he might see."
—Rick Eckstein, hitting coach, Washington Nationals
"He's a special kid and he's going to have his time. He looks like he's pretty humbled, so I think if he can stay healthy, he can have some success at this level."
—Albert Pujols, 1b, St. Louis Cardinals
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog