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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The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.