Washington Nationals' prospect Bryce Harper #34 playing for the Scottsdale Scorpions walks back to the dugout after striking out during the AZ Fall League game. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Maybe whoever penned the Mesa Solar Sox' scouting report on the Scottsdale Scorpions' right fielder Bryce Harper hadn't read Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci's myth-making article entitled "Baseball's LeBron", in which Mr. Verducci wrote all the way back in early June of '09 about how the then-16-year-old Harper had, "...faster bat speed than Mark McGwire in his prime...and when he pitches...a fastball that has been clocked at 96 mph." Or perhaps they missed the part about how the one-time backstop threw runners out at second from his knees...? Did the Solar Sox just want to test the now-18-year-old Nats' outfield prospect, who was making just his third AFL start, and only his second in right?
Maybe Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the NY Mets' 23-year-old '08 3rd Round pick, (and the Solar Sox' left fielder), just thought he could score from third when Phillies' prospect Tim Kennelly hit a fly ball to right with one down in what was already a 6-1 game with the Scorpions ahead in the second. As ESPN.com's Keith Law hashtagged it on Twitter (@keithlaw), "#badidea". Harper caught the second out of the inning in right and unloaded toward home where Scottsdale catcher Caleb Joseph, a 24-year-old O's '08 7th Rounder, applied the tag on the Phils' Nieuwenheis for Harper's first AFL inning-ending 9-2 DP.
@keithlaw: "Mesa just challenged Harper's arm by sending a runner from third. #badidea"
At the plate, however, Harper went 0 for 4 with 2 swinging K's, a pop to short and a groundout to second. Harper faced eight pitches before striking out in his first at bat, popped a 1-2 pitch up to the infield in his second, went down swinging on three-straight in his third and then hit an infield groundout on an 0-2 offering in his fourth and final at bat in the ninth. Harper's fellow Nat prospect Derek Norris showed off his discerning eye this afternoon, walking three times in four at bats and stealing a base, (his second this fall), leaving the 21-year-old '07 4th Round pick with a 9 walks in 22 AFL AB's and a .273/.485/.682 slash line after 8 games. Nats' and Scorpions' right-hander Cole Kimball, 25, an '06 12th Round pick who spent the 2010 season in Class-A Potomac and Double-A Harrisburg, threw a scoreless eighth in spite of hitting the leadoff batter, but the Scorpions came up empty in the ninth and lost a 7-6 decision to the Solar Sox.