Davey Johnson had Bryce Harper hit first in his lineup in 16 games in 2013. In 75 plate appearances, the 20-going-on-21-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder had a .317/.419/.603 line as the Washington Nationals' leadoff hitter. The majority of Harper's AB's in his second major league season, however, came in the three-hole where he had a .268/.374/.504 line with 14 doubles and 14 HRs in 71 games and 302 PAs.
So where will new Nats' skipper Matt Williams hit Harper in 2014? Williams was asked on the inaugural episode of Thom Loverro and Tim Shover's new ESPN980 baseball show "The Dugout."
Though he said he's yet to talk to Harper about where the Nationals' young star likes to hit, Williams did offer his thoughts about where the slugger might fit in the order.
"Looking at it from afar," Williams said, "I want to be able to give him the opportunity to do what he does best and let him do it. So I look at Bryce and I say, well, initially, 'Is he a leadoff hitter?' No, probably not. He's never hit leadoff, he's never been that guy. He's always been a middle of the [order] guy and he's always been the best player on his team, for that matter. And so I want to put him in a position to succeed. So, I like him, depending on who's pitching, of course, and matchups and all of that stuff, I like him 3-4-5. I like him somewhere in the middle of the order where he can produce runs."
"Going a little bit further in looking at it," Williams continued, "I say to myself, 'I also want to allow him to use his speed.' So sometimes if he's three and say Jayson [Werth] is four and [Ryan Zimmerman] is five, the natural tendency is to not let him run because you're one swing away from a two or a three-run homer. But, I think that also gets you in trouble sometimes. So maybe five is best, I don't know. We're going to [figure] that out in Spring Training and see and you certainly talk to Bryce and find out where he's most comfortable and allow him to be free and play. That being said, I still see him in the middle of the lineup somewhere."
What will Matt Williams' first Opening Day lineup look like? Where should Bryce Harper hit?
Since fans around NatsTown are always lamenting the lack of radio shows about the Nats, check out Mr. Loverro and Mr. Shover's new show...
• AUDIO: Listen to ESPN980's Thom Loverro and Tim Shover on "The Dugout" HERE.
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