Bryce Harper is off to a great start, which is business as usual for one of the best April hitters of all time.
I realize, given the Nationals’ lack of October success, that using a “Mr. April” moniker in relation to Bryce Harper may be viewed as criticism of some sort. That’s not my intention. Harper has hit four career playoff home runs—tied with Miguel Cabrera, Jimmie Foxx, Johnny Bench, Chipper Jones, and Jose Canseco for the 10th-most ever through age 24—and I have no doubt that he’ll put up plenty of big playoff numbers in the future. For now, though, his opening-month numbers are the ones worth drooling over, because few players in baseball history have ever hit like Harper in April.
PECOTA helps pick the best player in baseball for every age, from Julio Urias to Bartolo Colon and all the superstars in between.
I have a vivid memory from my little league days of sitting in the dugout after practice and listening intently as a teammate read Baseball America’s rankings of the best players in the country by age. The best player on our team, who later went on to play Division I ball, was annoyed by the notion of a 13-year-old somewhere else getting so much attention for what couldn’t possibly be (he figured) superior talent. The sixth-best player on our team, who later went on to write this article, found it fascinating that there was a 13-year-old so good at baseball that they were being written about in magazines.
Monday is the start of our positional series at Baseball Prospectus, and we’re going to give you a lot of information, opinions and strategy tips. In fact, we laid it all out for you here. But before we get into the nitty gritty, we thought we’d have a little fun with some quick-hit questions that we answered as a team. Some of these were questions we got from you, the readers. Some were just interesting discussion points. But here are 14 opinions on 20 questions:
Time heals all wounds, but in Washington's case, it will also inflict them.
You’d think Bryce Harper’s comeback from his latest long-term injury would be cause for unbridled celebration, and in some contexts, it has been (see the standing ovation Harper received from the fans at Nationals Park before his first plate appearance on Monday). However, the 21-year-old outfielder’s return also been cause for consternation. Harper’s presence, coupled with Ryan Zimmerman’s throwing problems from third, have given the Nats more qualified position players than they have open positions, which has made everyone around the team wonder: Where will they put their surplus player(s)?
Most teams suffer from the opposite issue—too few productive players—so the Nationals’ quandary is an example of the proverbial “good problem to have.” Still, it seems as though there’s no easy answer, and so the discussion has staying power. Twice last month, two weeks apart, I appeared on MLB Network’s MLB Now; both times, Washington’s positional logjam was a featured topic, and both times, the panel was split over what manager Matt Williams should do. The discourse in print hasn’t been much more decisive.
Talking about today's most topical 21-year-old, 22-year-old, and 23-year-old: Bryce Harper, Gregory Polanco, and Kolten Wong.
Thoughts on three young National Leaguers in the news today, plus a bonus item about the Blue Jays:
Pittsburgh’s Gregory Polanco Promotion Watch
As Daniel Rathmanpointed out in today’s What You Need to Know, the Pirates—whose shutout loss to St. Louis on Sunday dropped them to 10-16 and (now) nine games back in the NL Central—aren’t hitting. A big part of Pittsburgh’s problems at the plate has been the team’s lack of production from right field, where Travis Snider, trade chipJose Tabata, and Josh Harrison (for one plate appearance) have combined for a .221/.289/.279 triple-slash line. As Dan also observed, the Pirates’ top healthy prospect, Gregory Polanco, plays right field for Triple-A Indianapolis, where he’s hitting .400/.460/.644. It doesn’t take Branch Rickey to connect the dots and conclude that the team’s greatest minor-league strength could be the solution to one of its major-league weaknesses.
Tyson Ross baffles the Giants, the benches clear at PNC Park, plus other recaps from the weekend and previews of today's action.
In the past, Tyson Ross has been viewed as a player with the raw talent to be a successful big-league pitcher, but one unable to put his skills toward sustainable success at the big-league level.
However, after an excellent outing on Friday against the Giants, Ross looks like a very good big-league pitcher. He completed eight innings with nine strikeouts, four hits, one walk, and no runs. This comes directly after another strong showing against the Tigers, in which he threw seven innings with seven strikeouts, six hits, one walk, and one run. Obviously, a two-game sample does not define the greatness of a big-league pitcher, but it is certainly a promising start. On the season, he owns a 2.13 ERA, a 2.95 FIP, and 25 strikeouts. Considering that he had a very solid second half of last season as well (2.93 ERA, 85 K in 80 IP), he may be hitting his stride.
Scouts' takes on Bryce Harper, Justin Upton, Courtney Hawkins, and other interesting players.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike.