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 Padres fired manager Andy Green on Saturday, per an official team release. Bench coach Rod Barajas will step into the position for the remaining eight games of the 2019 season.
Executive Vice President and GM A.J. Preller gave a statement in the wake of Green’s dismissal:
I want to thank Andy for his tireless work and dedication to the Padres over the last four seasons. This was an incredibly difficult decision, but one we felt was necessary at this time to take our organization to the next level and expedite the process of bringing a championship to San Diego. Our search for a new manager will begin immediately.
In additional comments made to reporters, Preller added that the decision had not been made based on the Padres’ current win-loss record (a fourth-place 69-85 in the NL West), but rather on the lack of response coming from the team.
“Looking at the performance, looking at it from an improvement standing, we haven’t seen the team respond in the last few months,” Preller said. “When you get to the point where you’re questioning where things are headed … we have to make that call.”
Since his hiring in October 2015, Green has faced considerable challenges on the Padres’ long and winding path to postseason contention. He shepherded San Diego through four consecutive losing seasons, drawing a career 274-366 record as the club extended their streak to 13 seasons without a playoff appearance. And, despite some definite strides in the right direction — including an eight-year, $144 million pact with Eric Hosmer, a 10-year, $300 million pact with superstar Manny Machado, and the development of top prospect Fernando Tatís Jr. — lingering injuries and inexplicable slumps from key players stalled the rebuild longer than the Padres would have liked.
For now, they’ll prepare to roll the dice with a new skipper in 2020, though any potential candidates have yet to be identified for the role. It won’t come cheap, either, as Green inked a four-year extension back in 2017 — one that should have seen him through the team’s 2021 campaign.