Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-USA TODAY Sports
Name: Bryce Harper
Bryce Harper was coming off of a fabulous rookie campaign in which he won National League Rookie of the Year. So his expectations were very high for 2013 and why shouldn’t they be? He has been talked about for years about his power, speed and throwing arm. He showed all of those off in his rookie year.
You expect him to play around 140 games, hit some homers, steal some bases and get on base at a good rate. He doesn’t take an extraordinary amount of walks but he does let four balls go every once in a while and go to first base. Being in the middle of the order he won’t steal as many bases because of the bats behind him. That renders his abilities a little bit, but so be it if it helps the team in the long run.
He really struggled against lefties in his rookie season, so I expect him to have worked on that over the winter so he is better. He only hit .240 against lefties while .286 against righties. If he can get that to be close to similar he will be a great player and lead Washington to a lot of things. If he doesn’t, he has the chance to soon be a platoon player that only plays against righties and weak lefties.
It was an injury plagued season, with some goofy injuries but all in all, it was a good season. He hit the long ball, and got on base. That is all you want out of Bryce Harper.
In 100 less at bats in 2013, he drew five more walks. That is a great sign of his patience and waiting for his pitch. If he continues to do that he will become even better. I would rather him take ball four with runners on second and third and less than two outs, than him swing at a bad pitch, ground out and get the RBI. Take that as you may, but that is good baseball.
He stole less bases, but he did play in less games. Being in the middle of the lineup really hurt him some as well. He has the potential to be a great player, but it is still all potential at this point.
It was another poor season against lefties. he only hit .214, while .300 against righties. It went down from his rookie season. That is the major issue he has to fix. If he wants to become that great player, he has to stop flailing against lefties. If you take a look at his spray chart, you will see that he grounds out a lot to the right side, because he is pulling off the ball. Also on that spray chart it shows that he has great power to all fields, hitting homers to left, center and right.
2014 is a big year for Harper. He either breaks out and has a great season, or he stays at just being a good player. The Nationals want the great player that they thought he would turn out to be.
Pay attention to how he does against lefties. He will hit the weaker ones, but watch him against the games best lefties. Does he continue to struggle or does he figure it out and adjust? That will be the backbone of his season.
He has to stay healthy. There is nothing wrong with being aggressive, but he has to learn when to be aggressive. If he is in the lineup 145 times this season the Nationals should win a lot of games. He is that much of a game changer.
He will hit his 20 homers and drive in some runs, but watch for his stolen bases. Does he become more aggressive on the bases with Matt Williams as manager? Or does he stay at first and let the guys behind him swing the bat? Pay attention to all these things throughout the season and see how he is progressing.