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Harper, catchers impressing

Nov 15, 2010, 3:25 PM EDT

Time for another update on Nationals currently playing fall or winter ball across the western hemisphere. MLB.com has a nice function that allows you to check the stats for every player from one organization on one page. You might want to bookmark this page, which has updates on 28 players from all levels of the Nats' organization.

Let's start, of course, with Bryce Harper, who continues to make the most of his limited opportunities in the Arizona Fall League. The 18-year-old outfielder has played in eight games for the Scottsdale Scorpions and is hitting .323 (10-for-31) with two doubles, two triples, a homer, six RBI, four walks and 10 strikeouts. That equates to a .400 on-base percentage a .613 slugging percentage and a robust 1.013 OPS.

It's tough to make any real significant judgments off the stats from eight games, but clearly Harper has shown he can handle the level of competition. He's been a little overanxious at the plate, leading to that hefty strikeout rate. But he's flashed his immense power and by all accounts has looked solid in right field, especially in the throwing department.

Harper probably has only two more games to play in Arizona. This is the final week of the AFL season, so he'll play Wednesday. And barring an epic collapse, Scottsdale will be playing in the AFL championship on Saturday (2:30 p.m. EST on MLB Network). I'm notRead more ยป

  1. P. Cole - Nov 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    Maybe we should trade a catcher for a SP?

  2. Doc - Nov 15, 2010 at 3:37 PM

    It'll be fun checking out the stats of these up and coming players, particularly in the Carribean Leagues. Espinosa got his first HR yesterday. So far, after about 12 games, he's striking out about 1 of 3 ABs–need to get Eckstein down there to check it out. I haven't seen Flores in the box scores lately, so I'm assuming that he has a minor injury.

  3. NatsJack in Florida - Nov 15, 2010 at 3:50 PM

    Spoke to Rick Eckstein last nite and he's working on getting Espinosa to shorten his swing as well as speed up his approach from the left side.On a sad note, Sandy Alderson lost his father tragically to a pedestrian/auto accident Saturday night in St. Pete, Florida. I new his father during our high school baseball exploits and met up with him during Sandy's trips to Oakland/Tampa Bay Devil Ray games 10 years or so ago. He was vibrant and active as an 87 year old and was looking forward to Spring Training and visiting Citi Field this season. My prayers go out to the Alderson family.

  4. Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me - Nov 15, 2010 at 3:54 PM

    Very sorry to learn of the loss of Sandy Alderson's father. My condolences.

  5. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 4:08 PM

    Eury Perez continues to look like a top prospect. He's hitting .412 with 8 steals in 13 games.

  6. JD - Nov 15, 2010 at 4:42 PM

    According to Keith Law Norris is our best catching prospect but is probably at least a year away; Ramos should be a good above average major league catcher and Flores is very hard to count on at this stage. I wouldn't go trading any catchers away until I,m damn sure they all work out.

  7. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 4:58 PM

    Mark – reading the updates about the guys playing across the Carribbean, Central and South America… where do the umpires come from? Are they local to where the games are, or are they assigned so that the best players have at least qualified umpires to call the games? Just curious how that would work out. Danny

  8. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:02 PM

    the sad thing is the three major leaguers who are playing winter league have the 3 worst OPS of all of the Nats winter leaguers!!!!

  9. Doc - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:03 PM

    Prospects are only prospects, but I think that its a good time to be a Nats fan! Eury Perez looks like a good fit for leading off the batting order. He grabs a base about 50% of the time that he gets on. That .444 OBP the DWL looks pretty good.Yeah, I agree, lets not be too quick to trade away catching prospects, or those already on the big league roster. If Flores looks good in the spring/AAA, then I guess Pudge is the first to go. Norris, given a year to develop, particularly with his defensive skills might be the next to go for some OF/SP talent.

  10. markfd - Nov 15, 2010 at 5:16 PM

    Mark,Something else that stands out at me is the performance of some of our releivers. Opposing atters are only hitting .119 against Adam Carr, .143 against Joel Peralta, and .200 against Cole Kimball. Stats like that give me great hope that we can have a homegrown bullpen in the near future.

  11. Steve M. - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Anon @ 12:02. Good point although I would say that some of these MLB hitters go to Winter Ball specifically to work on weaknesses which may be reflected in their BAs and OBPs such as hitting opposite field, working on breaking pitches, bunting for hits, shortening their swings, etc.

  12. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:13 PM

    OK, I'll admit I was skeptical of Harper succeeding in the AFL. But he has. If most of those guys are AA players or will be, what is to keep the Nats from starting Harper at Harrisburg? Or is that too much too soon? Does he start at Potomac and move up quickly if he continues to do what he has done this fall? He is looking like a legitimate phenom on the fast track. There is a lot in MZ's post to celebrate.fpcsteve

  13. SpashCity - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:26 PM

    I still think Harper will start the season at Hagerstown. If he his .350 with 10 homers in the first month, then they will move him up Potomac. Another month of domination and he will get another promotion. I think they will take the same approach with him that they took with Strasburg, in making sure he not only is competitive at each minor league level, but seeing him dominate before moving him up to the higher levels.

  14. TimDz - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:55 PM

    @SplashCity: Respectfully disagree for a number of reasons.1) Strasburg came out ready for the big leagues, as he was a dominant pitcher in college and even played in the (relatively) big stage in the World Championships (or whatever the heck they call it)2) Being a pitcher, Strasburg had to focus primarily on the pitching. Harper is learning a new position and needs to face consistent high level competition. Six or so at bats a week for two games a week doesn't really give you a great sample size.3) Harper is all of 18. There is plenty of time for him to get to the bigs. They invested a lot of money in him and they need to bring him along at a reasoanble pace.For me, I say he starts in Hagerstown and will stay there at least until mid season and he MAY get a call to Potomac near the end of the year. Unless he is hitting .500 or some ungodly number in the first 2 months, I think he he stay in Hagerstown for the majority, if not all, of this next season.

  15. Mark Zuckerman - Nov 15, 2010 at 6:58 PM

    Anonymous said…Mark – reading the updates about the guys playing across the Carribbean, Central and South America… where do the umpires come from? Are they local to where the games are, or are they assigned so that the best players have at least qualified umpires to call the games? Just curious how that would work out. DannyCan't say with certainty about the various Caribbean leagues, though I'm pretty sure they use umps from each respective country.I do know the AFL, though, uses top minor-league umpires, guys who (like the players in that league) are on the verge of reaching the majors.

  16. SpashCity - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:21 PM

    TimDZ – Rizzo has a history of developing #1 overall draft picks. He even has a history of developing #1 overall draft picks who are learning to play right field after spending his entire amateur career at a different position. Rizzo was with the Diamondbacks in 2005 when he drafted Justin Upton #1 overall. Upton spent his entire high school career as a shortstop, and then Arizona decided to put him in RF, presumably to get his bat to the majors faster.Upton, at the age of 18, spent all of 2006 at low-A South Bend, hitting .263 with a .757 OPS in 113 games. Upton split 2007 between high-A and AA, hitting a combined .319 with a .961 OPS, and even made his major league debut at the end of the season, playing in 43 games for the Diamondbacks in 2007. In 2008, Upton started the year at AAA, played in 15 games, and then got called up to the big league club to stay at the age of 20. In 2009, Upton made the National League All-Star team, as a reserve, meaning he was selected by the players or the manager. I can only assume that Rizzo has a similar plan for Harper, and from everything I've read, it seems that scouts think Harper is even better than Upton.

  17. TimDz - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:47 PM

    Splash: Everything I heard suggests a slow and cautious approach.Guess we'll know more this time next year…

  18. SpashCity - Nov 15, 2010 at 7:59 PM

    I agree will will know more in a year. And I am not by any means saying that he should be moved up for the sake of hype or anything else. I think the company line has been, and should continue to be, that his play will dictate what level he starts at and how quickly he advances. As I said before, I think he starts 2011 at Hagerstown, and if he hits .350 with 10 homers (or something similar) in the first month, I would consider that enough evidence to move him up, one level, to Potomac. But I don't think there is a point to leave him at Hagerstown so he can learn how to hit the cut off man.

  19. JD - Nov 15, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    SpashCity, I was of the same opinion but from every thing I read it appears that the plan for Harper is somewhat more aggressive; start at Potomac rather than Haggerstown and take it from there. The fact that they are developing Harper as an outfielder rather than a catcher tells me that they are cautiously hoping to fast track Harper.

  20. NatsJack in Florida - Nov 15, 2010 at 9:09 PM

    JD… Actually, the fact that the Nats said they were making him an outfielder rather than a catcher so they could accelerate his ascent to the Majors should have told you that.My sources say that Spring Training will determine where he starts and it will either be Hagerstown or Potomac. It won't be Harrisburg no matter how well he performs in Spring Training.

  21. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    Norris and Flores have missed several games. Maya also hasn't pitched in awhile.

  22. Paul - Nov 15, 2010 at 10:06 PM

    There is no way Harper starts the year in low-A ball–he is competing primarily against AA and AAA guys now and putting up awesome numbers. In short, he would destroy Sally League pitching without learning much about how to adjust to real quality breaking pitches or really well thought our game plans to attack his weaknesses.The only thing for this kid to do is to be put in against better competition and learn on the fly. He starts at Potomac and I think that he is in AA by the end of the year.

  23. JD - Nov 15, 2010 at 10:35 PM

    Paul, I think it's very plausible but I don't think Potomac and Harrisburg will be a cake walk; he needs to learn the strike zone and lay off bad pitches which thus far he has not been inclined to do. Hayward made it to the bigs at 19 so it's doable and if someone needs to rush a star to the majors it's definitely the NAts.

  24. Anonymous - Nov 15, 2010 at 10:40 PM

    If the Nats can pick up Uggla, can't they shift Espinosa back to short and trade Desmond? Is Desmond really a franchise player we need to hold onto? Or does Uggla's impending free agency make that a bad deal? I have no answer–just asking the question.

  25. greg - Nov 15, 2010 at 11:43 PM

    if rizzo is serious about not acquiring poor defensive players, you won't see uggla here. he's considered one of, if not the worst, defensive 2B starter in the majors.

  26. Les in NC - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:31 AM

    JD, IMO I think Harper has a solid hold on the strike zone. My guess is that he started his AFL career swinging at every pitch he saw, because every pitch he saw was one that he thought he could drive! Probably because the 20 something year olds playing against him figured they could throw their best pitch down the heart of the plate and Harper wouldn't be able to touch it. Now that he has proven he not only CAN touch their best stuff, but touch it with the meat of his bat they are having to try and pitch to him like any other hitter (one who can hit a ton).I am glad I am not the one deciding his place in the minors, cuz if it was me, he would be starting at AA or better! I trust that he will do well where ever he goes though.

  27. Doc - Nov 16, 2010 at 3:39 AM

    Yeah, what's with this with Uggla stuff? @Greg is right. So where do you put the league's worst defensive 2B guy? I know, maybe at Rizzo's favorite default fielding position, in RF!

  28. Anonymous - Nov 16, 2010 at 3:59 AM

    If Snyder can spend all that money to sign McNabb, why can't the Lerners spend some money and sign Dunn?

  29. JayB - Nov 16, 2010 at 12:08 PM

    Mark,Flores has not played in well over a week….Is he hurt yet again?

  30. SpashCity - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    JayB – Ben Goessling reported that Flores has a strained calf. He missed a road trip but is expected to be back with the team soon. The Nats don't think it's serious.http://www.masnsports.com/the_goessling_game/2010/11/jesus-flores-has-strained-calf.html

  31. Anonymous - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:47 PM

    why sign Uggla? He has already declined a 4yr/$48M contract so he wants more. After the 2011 season, he will be a free agent. That signing makes little sense. Desmond and Espinosa are both under control for multiple years. Let's just hope that one of them turns out to be the real deal. All the better if they both do. At some point soon, The Nats need to promote Burgess and Marrero and see what they've got. ML

  32. NatsJack in Florida - Nov 16, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    Maybe Uggla can play first base?

  33. SpashCity - Nov 16, 2010 at 2:13 PM

    Maybe the Nats don't think Espinosa is quite ready. He only had about a month in AAA last year before being called up. So far in winter ball, he is hitting a respectable .266, but with 20 strike outs in just 15 games.Rizzo could be planning to start Espinosa in AAA next year, use Uggla at 2B and then trade him at the deadline.Or maybe he will have a deal for a good young starting pitcher on the table and reject it so he can collect those sweet, sweet sandwich picks.

  34. JayB - Nov 16, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    Thanks Spash…missed that one…..At least it is not his shoulder but with Flores it always something…..we really need to move on from him as soon as he has some trade value.

  35. Anonymous - Nov 17, 2010 at 12:16 PM

    Now that Uggla is with Atlanta, I'm glad we don't have to talk about him anymore…at least for this year.

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