March 1, 2021

Arizona Fall League Update: Bryce Harper on fire; Joins Norris for Rising Stars Game

For Bryce Harper, what a difference a couple of weeks makes.

The 19-year old Washington Nationals phenom got off to a slow start in the Arizona Fall League this season, struggling out of the gate as he seems to do every time he changes a level.  For the last two weeks, however, he’s has been flat-out raking.  In his last ten games, the outfielder has hit .410/.467/.923 with three doubles, five home runs and 19 RBIs.

Harper on deck at spring training (Photo by Cheryl Nichols)

Overall, in 16 games and 62 at bats, Harper is hitting .290/.357/.613 with five homers and 20 BRIs.  Oh, and he’s still the youngest player in the league.

Harper was, of course, named to the Rising Stars Game, the All-Star game of the AFL.  Teammate Derek Norris (.354/.450/.521) will join Harper in the showcase game, this Saturday at 8;10 pm on MLB Network.

Adam Kilgore in The Washington Post’s Nationals Journal today wonders if Harper’s outburst might influence whether the teenager makes the Nats roster for opening day.   It’s an interesting idea to ponder, and Kilgore includes the caveat that if the Nats wait until around Memorial Day to call up Harper they delay his arbitration clock from ticking.

But for a player of Harper’s potential stature, arbitration might not be that big of a factor.  By the time he’s eligible, the Nats will have a pretty good idea of what exactly they have on their hands.  As they did with Ryan Zimmerman, they could offer him a contract to essentially “buy out” his remaining arbitration years, then wait until he becomes a free agent.  Naturally, there are a lot of variables that would go into that equation, including the team’s overall success.

What seems undebatable, though, is Harper forcing himself at least into the picture for opening day.  With a good close to the AFL and a hot spring training, Harper might earn a spot in the bigs without playing at the Triple-A level.  GM Mike Rizzo generally likes to see his prospects “master” each level before moving up, but he’s also never had a hitting prospect like Harper.

Also in the AFL:

Zach Walters, INF:  14 games, 50 ABs.  .180/.222/.300 with 1 HR and 7 RBI.

Pat Lehman, RP:  7 games, 8.2 IP. 0-3, 10.38 ERA, 1.96 WHIP.  9 K, 2 BB.

Rafael Martin, RP:  5 games, 7.0 IP.  0-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.00 WHIP.  5 K, 2 BB.

Sammy Solis, SP:  5 games, 19.0 IP.  0-0, 5.21 ERA, 1.74 WHIP.  14 K, 11 BB.

Matt Purke, SP:  3 games, 3.1 IP.  0-0, 29.70 ERA, 3.60 WHIP.  1 K, 2 BB.

About Dave Nichols

Dave Nichols is Editor-in-Chief of District Sports Page. He is credentialed to cover the Washington Nationals, Capitals, Wizards and Mystics. Dave also covers national college football and basketball and Major League Soccer for Associated Press and is a copy editor for the Spokesman-Review newspaper in Spokane, WA. He spent four years in radio covering the Baltimore Orioles, Washington Redskins and the University of Maryland football and basketball teams. Dave is a life-long D.C. sports fan and attended his first pro game in 1974 — the Caps’ second game in existence. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveNicholsDSP

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