Washington Nationals: Five Takeaways From The Grapefruit League

rjuckett
Mar 24, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (80) hands the ball to manager Dusty Baker (12) and leaves the game against the St. Louis Cardinals during a spring training game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 24, 2017; West Palm Beach, FL, USA; Washington Nationals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie (80) hands the ball to manager Dusty Baker (12) and leaves the game against the St. Louis Cardinals during a spring training game at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /
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BRYCE HARPER’S EYE

When you hit eight home runs over the course of a month, you are locked in. What Bryce Harper did to baseballs this spring was a joy to watch, even if they did not truly count.

Not only did he tattoo balls, Harper’s swing was beautiful to watch. Free, fluid and quick.

The biggest difference between March and an indifferent September was his ability to protect the plate. Pitches swung at down the stretch on the outside corner were watched in West Palm Beach. He forced pitchers to make mistakes and crushed them into outfield berms and team office complexes.

Able to draw over 100 walks a year now, his change of approach turns a productive offense into a potential historic one. By laying off those outside pitches, he forces more pitches and mistakes. At worst, Harper draws a walk.

And you know, a walk is as good as a hit.

The other difference is Harper is relaxed. Sure, the stakes of Grapefruit League baseball for him is nothing. Yet, he played as if he had fun. Keeping loose and free is huge over the next six months.

After an odd 2016, Harper can return to the form earning him the unanimous MVP award two years ago.

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