Bryce Harper’s bat has been pretty quiet down at Class AAA Syracuse, as he is hitting just .232 with no home runs and one RBI in 14 games.
But Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo isn’t worried, telling CSN Washington’s Mark Zuckerman that Harper, one of the top prospects in baseball, is progressing just fine.
Rizzo insists that Harper has a good approach at the plate and is hitting the ball hard, even if the results haven’t been there.
“I think it’s an adjustment period for him,” Rizzo said before Thursday’s game against the Astros. “It’s a different kind of pitching than he’s ever had in the minor leagues. You’ve got some hard-throwing prospects, and you also have some veteran, AAA/AAAA type of pitchers that can really pitch and command their stuff. They’re not the blazing fastballs, but they try to get you out different ways.”
Rizzo also said that Harper’s conversion to center field is progressing as planned, despite a pair of errors at the position so far. “He’s taken good routes. His throwing is really improved.”
With all the hype around Harper, it’s easy to forget that he is only 19 and in his second season in professional baseball. The fact that he’s playing on the AAA level is impressive enough, and his track record suggests that he will adjust to the new challenge in time.
As Zuckerman points out, the Nationals can keep Harper from reaching free agency until after the 2018 season if they wait one more week to call him up. But it seems likely they will wait much longer to give him his first taste of the major leagues.
The 10-4 Nats currently reside in first place in the NL East on the strength of a pitching staff that is allowing just over three runs per game.
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Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen had trouble coming up with an Anthony Rizzo line drive in the top of the third inning. The ball seemed to curve at the last minute, clanking off of McCutchen’s glove, setting up first and third with two outs for the Cubs. McCutchen was sacked with an error. Ben Zobrist then cranked out a three-run home run off of starter Juan Nicasio to put the Cubs up 3-0.
Per Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, McCutchen said after the game, “Whoever scored that an error should be fired. That’s unbelievable. I did everything I could to catch it.”
Here’s the video. Rule 9.12(a) in baseball’s official rules states:
(a) The official scorer shall charge an error against any fielder:
(1) whose misplay (fumble, muff or wild throw) prolongs the time at bat of a batter, prolongs the presence on the bases of a runner or permits a runner to advance one or more bases
Pretty cut and dried stuff here. It was an error.
Rangers 3B/OF Joey Gallo will miss three to four weeks with a Grade 1 groin strain, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Gallo, 22, has spent the season at Triple-A Round Rock, where he’s hit a productive .254/.400/.642 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 85 plate appearances. Gallo was at times impressive in 123 plate appearances with the Rangers last year, but the club felt he needed some more work on his plate discipline, as he struck out 57 times in 123 PA at the big league level in 2015. At Triple-A this year, Gallo has drawn 17 walks and struck out 21 times.
Assuming he heals as expected from the injury, Gallo should join the Rangers at some point during the summer.
Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flirted with the cycle in Wednesday afternoon’s 13-2 drubbing of the Royals, as he went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a two-run double, and a solo home run. That brings his triple-slash line on the season up to .398/.449/.663. Comparatively, teammate Bryce Harper — the defending NL MVP and arguably the best player in baseball — is currently hitting .266/.372/.649.
Murphy has always been an above-average hitter, but this level of hitting is something else. Of course, he flashed it in the post-season last year when he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets advance past the Dodgers in the NLDS and sweep the Cubs in the NLCS.
The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in January. If Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates to replace Murphy, wasn’t hitting so well, the Mets would probably be jealous. Walker is hitting .296/.330/.582 with nine home runs and 19 RBI.
It’s always fun when this happens. Cubs starter Jon Lester snagged a grounder hit back up the middle by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the second inning. The only problem was that the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Rather than fight to pry the ball out, Lester just lobbed his glove over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the first out of the inning.
Lester has had issues throwing baseballs to first base, so maybe it was a good thing the ball got stuck in his glove.
Lester did this last year, too, by the way.