If you watched last night’s game between the Brewers and Nationals, you saw a new look from Bryce Harper. And no, I’m not talking about his haircut.
Harper debuted a new batting stance, which featured some pretty significant changes. Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has the details:
Harper made three changes. He stood upright with less bend in his knees. He held his hands lower, level with his chest. He relaxed his left elbow so it pointed at the ground behind him.
The overall effect made him calmer in his actions. Harper had been “jumpy” upon his return from the disabled list, Williams said. The new stance seemed designed to eliminate the anxiousness, to allow Harper to stay back and wait on pitches.
“I just felt comfortable, and that’s the main thing,” Harper said. “Going forward, I’m just trying to have some fun and relax a little bit.”
The early results are promising, as Harper went 3-for-4 with a solo homer. Check out the homer here and see the new stance for yourself. The 21-year-old outfielder was just 6-for-40 (.150) with 16 strikeouts over his first 12 games since coming off the disabled list, so perhaps the changes are here to stay.
Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu has described Harper’s new approach as “stack and jack,” which has a pretty nice ring to it. I can see it catching on.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.