Washington Nationals fans were deprived of an opportunity to see how 19-year-old Nats' prospect Bryce Harper has developed defensively in the outfield since he was penciled in to the AFL East's lineup as the DH in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars game Saturday night. Harper's been making headlines at the plate, with hits in thirteen straight games and a .314/.388/.643 slash, three doubles and six home runs in 70 Arizona Fall League AB's. Harper's first AFL Rising Stars at bat came in the second inning of tonight's game. The left-handed hitting Harper faced the 2nd pick of the 2011 Draft, left-hander Danny Hultzen, who was selected by Seattle out of the University of Virginia after he'd pitched at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C. in high school. Harper walked with one down on a 3-1 pitch from Hultzen, who pitched around the free pass to the Nats' top prospect to complete his second scoreless inning of the evening...
Harper and 22-year-old backstop prospect Derek Norris were the only Nats' prospects participating in the Rising Stars game. Norris just missed hitting a two-run blast after Harper's walk in the second, but Colorado Rockies' CF prospect Kevin Mattison made a catch with his back to the wall in deep center. In the bottom of the second, Norris made a nice play at home against the Rockies' outfielder, blocking the plate and tagging Mattison out on a grounder to first with Mattison breaking for home from third. Norris saved a run there, but the AFL East squad found themselves down 6-0 after Pirates' right-hander Gerrit Cole surrendered five runs before he was lifted in the first and the West added a run off LA Dodgers' prospect Steve Ames in the second.
It was 10-1 when Bryce Harper came up for the second time with one down in the fourth and Cubs' shortstop Junior Lake on third base after he'd doubled and moved up on a groundout. 27-year-old Toronto Blue Jays' right-hander Wes Etheridge got up 0-2 on Harper, but the Nats' future outfielder managed to connect with the two-strike change that followed, sending a sac fly to left even though he was fooled on the pitch. 10-2 on Harper's RBI sac fly. Derek Norris showed off his discerning eye, walking on five pitches from Etheridge in his second at bat of the night before he was stranded at first.
24-year-old Kansas City Royals' right-hander Jeremy Jeffress, acquired from Milwaukee in the Zack Greinke deal, struck Bryce Harper out with an 0-2 curve on the outside edge in Harper's third at bat of the night. Derek Norris K'd chasing an 0-2 bender outside as well. The AFL East squad already trailed 11-2 at that point. Norris was replaced by Astros' catcher Jason Castro in the sixth. Bryce Harper remained in the lineup as the DH. Facing Cincinnati Reds' 23-year-old right-hander Brad Boxberger in the 8th. Harper K'd chasing again with the third strike coming on a 94 mph fastball upstairs. Boxberger's K'd 19 (15.09 K/9) in 11.1 IP thus far in the AFL, and he's averaged 11.9 K/9 in the two seasons since Cincinnati selected the 6'2'' right-hander 43rd overall in the '09 Draft. Harper ended the AFL Rising Stars game 0 for 2 with a sac fly and a walk. Derek Norris went 0 for 2 with a walk and a K. The AFL East team they played for dropped an 11-2 decision to the AFL West.
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