Stat of the day: AFL fastball velocities

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Very cool stuff from Baseball America, which has gathered Pitch F/X data from the recently completed AFL season. Here were the league’s 10 hardest throwers, as ranked by their average fastball velocity (for a complete listing, check out their blog.
1. Stephen Strasburg (Nationals) – 96.8
2. Sergio Santos (White Sox) – 96.0
3. Tanner Scheppers (Rangers) – 95.9
4. Phillipe Aumont (Mariners) – 94.9
5. Drew Storen (Nationals) – 94.8
6. Kenley Jansen (Dodgers) – 94.8
7. Jenrry Mejia (Mets) – 94.5
8. Scott Mathieson (Phillies) – 94.5
9. Blake Wood (Royals) – 94.4
10. Craig Kimbrel (Braves) – 94.4
Besides Strasburg, of course, many of these pitchers are relievers. Aumont and Storen are two of the game’s very best relief prospects, and both should reach the majors in 2010. Kimbrel isn’t all that far behind. Two of the remaining relievers are former position players: Santos was a former first-round pick of the Diamondbacks as a shortstop and Jansen was a catcher for the Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic.
The most encouraging results were from Scheppers and Mathieson. Scheppers was a clear first-round talent in both the 2008 and ’09 drafts, but teams were uncertain about his shoulder. He signed with the Rangers in September after going 44th overall in this year’s draft. Mathieson has been a prospect forever, but he’s dealt with numerous arm problems. That he put together such a good showing in Arizona caused the Phillies to put him back on their 40-man roster, and he might be a possibility for their pen in May or June.

Bryce Harper will not be discussing his impending free agency with the media

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Bryce Harper is entering his walk year and it is widely expected that the Scott Boras client will, indeed, test out free agency next fall rather than engage in any substantial way with the Washington Nationals about a contract extension. There were some “casual conversations” between the parties in the early fall of 2017, but the Nats came away from that, quite reasonably, believing that Harper, who stands to land the largest contract in baseball history, will shop around.

For his part, Harper met the media on his first day of spring training workouts and let everyone know that, no, he does not plan to answer questions about his potential free agency every day between now and November. From MASN:

“Just want to let you guys know I will not be discussing anything relative to 2019, at all,” said Harper. “I’m focused on this year. I’m focused on winning and playing hard, like every single year. So if you guys have any questions about anything after 2018, you can call Scott and he can answer you guys.”

Makes sense. The alternative would be for Harper to give the same canned “I’m only focused on our next game” responses in front of his locker 150 times this summer, and that doesn’t serve anyone.

Thinking back to any other impending free agent’s comments about his free agency, I can’t remember a story along those lines which was worth much of anything. The genre generally consists of headlines which oversell an innocuous or offhand comment from a player as a means of guessing where his head is at with respect to his current team. I can’t think of any story in which a player, during his walk year, said something that concretely and definitively signaled his intensions in free agency one way or the other.

Reporters covering the Nationals who are curious as to how Harper feels about his current team at any given time would be better served just observing and inferring, with particular attention paid to how Harper and his teammates view the Nats’ competitive position as the season goes on, how they react to trades and stuff like that. There’s a lot of guesswork in all of that, but it sure beats trying to get a media savvy player like Harper to admit, after going 1-for-4 against the Phillies, where he plans to spend the next seven to ten years of his professional life.