A jackpot awaits this season’s top playoff outsider

If the I-75 League season ended today, the happiest team in the league would be… the Superior Titans.

That’s because they’d be the best team not to make the playoffs, thus earning them the first choice in the 2013 draft, and making them the presumptive owner of baseball’s most exciting prospect, Bryce Harper.

Harper has a grand total of four major league games and 13 at-bats under his belt. I’ve seen every one of them, as well as all of his plays in the outfield. Here’s why Washington and the rest of the baseball world is abuzz about the 19-year-old phenom:

* The quickest swing you’ll ever see. Great brute strength. Combined, you get lasers nearly every time he connects.  Wednesday night he hit two balls off the right-centerfield scoreboard at Nats Park, the first one missing being a homer by six inches; the second one put him on base in the ninth inning that resulted in him scoring the tying run on Ian Desmond’s walkoff homer.

* Super plate discipline and batting eye. He lays off the outside pitches and the low pitches. He’s a bit vulnerable to offspeed pitches. But in the ninth inning of Sunday’s game, batting with two outs and the tying run on second, Harper resisted the urge to try to be a hero and took a walk when the Dodgers pitched him carefully.

* A bazooka for an arm, as you’ve probably seen and/or heard about already. He threw a strike to the plate from deep left field in his first game and already runners are reluctant to test him; he’s unleashed two more cannons from deep in the outfield since.

* Aggressive outfield play, crashing into the wall to make one catch on Tuesday and snagging a flyball barehanded, pinned against his glove, Wednesday night after overrunning a ball that was tailing back toward him.

* Hustle. He’s nearly beaten out routine grounders back to the pitcher and to the shortstop. He goes hard 100% of the time, endearing him to the fans — at least the hometown fans.

Some of those characteristics won’t translate to a Strat card, but at this rate I expect Harper to be about a 2 outfielder with a minus-3 arm, and running speed of 16 or 17.  The Nationals are not saying what their plan is for Harper, and have suggested he might be sent back down to the minors when Ryan Zimmerman or Mike Morse are activated.

I can’t see that happening. In fact, by the time Morse returns, I expect to see Harper either batting leadoff or cleanup (so far he’s been batting seventh). With the Nationals struggling to put runs on the board, they’re going to have to make better use of Harper’s offensive production if they want to stay in the NL East race.

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5 Responses

  1. What about Chris Davis? Hits with power, plays the corners in the infield and has some nasty stuff when he takes the hill?

  2. Darvish took his first loss today (albeit with 11 Ks) and Harper stole home for the Nats, so maybe Bryce is the man. I sure do like that way Harper hustles 100 percent of the time.

    • When I hear a debate from the league founders over Darvish vs, Harper…it makes me Smyly.

  3. Harper helps the Nats win every night. The most Yu can do is once every fifth day. And they’re about 6 years apart in age. You can have Yu, I’ll still harp on Harper.

  4. Harper may be all that and more, but the Gophers are liking Yu Darvish as the No. 1 pick.

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