Bryce Harper is highly-regarded for his elite power potential, but he took a page out of Ichiro Suzuki’s book in order to beat out an infield single last night against the Mets.
With junkballing left-hander Daniel Herrera on the mound, Harper took a bit of a leaning start out of the box and slapped a pitch to the left side. It appeared to be a pretty routine ground ball to non-roster invitee Vinny Rottino at third base, but the 19-year-old hustled down the line in order to beat the throw. You can watch the play here.
Here’s Harper’s explanation of the hit, via Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com:
“I just tried to ‘Ichiro’ it,” Harper said, referring to the Mariners great who has made a living out of that fast-pitch softball-style swing. “I just tried to put the bat on the ball. That happened, and I just started running.”
Harper had two singles and a walk last night and is now 4-for-7 with four singles during Grapefruit League action. It would still be a surprise if he broke camp with the team given the obvious service clock considerations, but he’s getting plenty of playing time thus far. Michael Morse was scratched from today’s lineup with a lat strain, so Harper will start in right field for the fourth time in the past five days.
A report from the Baltimore Sun’s Dan Connolly suggests that free agent catcher Welington Castillo currently tops the Orioles’ list of potential backstop targets for the 2017 season. With Matt Wieters on the market, the Orioles lack a suitable platoon partner for Caleb Joseph behind the dish, and Connolly adds that the club has been discussing a multi-year deal with Castillo’s representatives since the Winter Meetings.
Castillo batted .264/.322/.423 with the Diamondbacks in 2016, racking up 14 home runs and driving in a career-high 68 RBI in 457 PA. His bat provides much of his upside, and Connolly quoted an anonymous National League scout who believes that the 29-year-old’s defensive profile has fallen short of his potential in recent years.
For better or worse, both the Orioles and Castillo appear far from locking in a deal for 2017. Both the Rays and Braves have expressed interest in the veteran catcher during the past week, while the Orioles are reportedly considering Wieters, Nick Hundley and Chris Iannetta as alternatives behind the plate.
The Phillies reportedly signed veteran outfielder Daniel Nava to a minor league contract, according to Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Nava began the season on a one-year contract with the Angels, during which he slashed .235/.309/.303 through 136 PA in the first half of 2016. He was flipped to the Royals in late August for a player to be named later and saw the remainder of his year go down the drain on an .091 average through 12 PA in Anaheim. After getting the boot from the Angels’ 40-man roster in November, the 33-year-old outfielder elected free agency.
Nava is expected to compete for a bench role on the Phillies’ roster in the spring. As it currently stands, the club’s projected 2017 outfield features Howie Kendrick and Odubel Herrera, with precious little depth behind them. Nava’s bat is underwhelming, but at the very least he offers the Phillies a warm body in left field and a potential platoon partner for one of their younger options, a la Tyler Goeddel or Roman Quinn.