PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals stands in during an at bat in the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
106.7 the FAN in D.C. and MLB Network Radio's Minors and Majors host Grant Paulsen (@granthpaulsen or @minorsandmajors) was in Arizona in the dugout with the U.S. squad at the XM All-Star Futures game last Sunday where he talked to 18-year-old Nats' prospect Bryce Harper, who told him that the 20-year-old Braves' pitching prospect Julio Teheran was the most impressive player he'd seen at the showcase.
"He's a big-leaguer, you know, Double-A or Triple-A, and he's been up to the big leagues, and he's always been good," Harper said, "Every single guy on that club can pitch, every single guy on our club can pitch and we got some guys on our club who can swing it, and it's just a lot of fun to be out here." Paulsen spoke to the Nationals' Director of Player Development Doug Harris this morning on his show "Minors and Majors" on MLB Network Radio about Harper, and Mr. Harris said that one of the things that excites him about the Nats' 2010 no. overall pick is, "what he's doing on the bases."
"[Harper's] got a chance to be a really good baserunner," Harris explained, "He's a very aggressive, very instinctive baserunner. Daring at times, youthful at times, but there were a lot of situations throughout the course of the early part of the year where he was on base, everybody in the ballpark knew he was going to run, and he's able to execute the stolen base. I think that's a part of his game that's going to be a little bit under the radar, and I think it's going to be a nice part of his game to round himself out."
Defensively, Harris said that Harper has moved around the outfield this year because, "exposing him to all three spots is healthy for his development." "He's really done a nice job," Harris continued, "he's a tremendous athlete which really helped shorten the learning curve and he's really done a nice job in his short time in left." Asked where Harper's likely to play when he does make it to the Nats' outfield, and if he could be an elite center fielder in the majors, Harris said, "It's premature to say that at this point, but from an athletic standpoint he has a chance [to play CF], ultimately he may be best suited on the corners. His full package may profile best on the corners."
As for what Harper needs to improve to have what the Nats would consider a successful second-half, Harris told the MLB Network's Grant Paulsen, "I don't think there is a statistical number out there that we're hanging our hat on that he's got to get to in order to deem the second-half a success. I think there are a lot of things: continued evolution as an outfielder; as a baserunner; his maturity as a hitter; and ultimately his growth as a teammate and those are a lot of the reasons that he's at the level he is and we have a great deal of confidence with the people around him and Bryce himself that it will be a success."
• Some other quotes from Doug Harris:
• Harris on Brad Peacock's success: "I think a lot of the credit not only goes to Brad, but Spin Williams our pitching coordinator. I think Paul Menhart our pitching coach in Potomac last year started it, carried it over to Randy Tomlin (Double-A Harrisburg Pitching Coach) and we're handing it off to Greg Booker at Triple-A. Everybody that's touched him has helped him. Brad's taken ownership of his career and we've done some subtle things that have really enabled him to jump on to the scene."
• Harris on what Peacock changed: "We've done a couple delivery swtiches with him, one to enable him to leverage a baseball more consistently. Two, to improve his deception. I also think that with maturity his secondary stuff has improved a great deal, but I think one of the biggest differences between last year or early in the past to this year is, he's always had a really good arm, but a lot of times his velocity was in the top of the strike zone. Now he's leveraging the baseball, utilizing that velocity to both sides of the plate, he can throw his curve ball for a chase and his changeup continues to improve."
• How does Peacock project?: "I think it's a little unfair at this point to box him into a specific role. He's got a chance as he's showing right now to be a power, command guy and those guys ultimately have a chance to pitch at the top of the rotation if his secondary stuff evolves."
• Harris on Derek Norris' defense: "I think he's made significant strides this year. One, his body is in tremendous shape, his athleticism is very good for the position, he's received extremely well and he's done a really nice job calling and managing games."
• Harris on Danny Espinosa's Surprising Power: "I do think the power is going to continue to grow when his left-handed swing becomes as consistent as he wants it to be. He and [Rick Eckstein] have done some things to really quiet his lower half, and since he's done that he's taken off a great deal. Once that left-handed side catches up with the right-handed side we're really excited about his future."