"World Series," Bryce Harper told reporters this morning who asked about the Washington Nationals' 20-year-old outfielder's goals for his second major league season. "I have things in my head, goals in my head," the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year said, "but I'm not going to share those because people are probably going to think I'm crazy. But I like to exceed my expectations." Winning a World Series was the biggest thing on Harper's mind though, as it is for Harper's manager Davey Johnson, who has declared that the motto for the defending NL East Champs is "World Series or Bust" in 2013.
"The World Series is the biggest thing on my mind," Harper said today, "and I want to take it back to D.C. and give that to the organization and everybody in D.C."
Harper finished his first major league season with a .270/.340/.477 line, 26 doubles, nine triples, 22 home runs, 98 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in 139 games and 597 plate appearances over which he was worth +4.9 fWAR. The left-handed hitting slugger spent the majority of his at bats hitting in the two-hole last season, with 525 of his 597 PAs coming with him batting second. There's been a bit of chatter this winter about where Harper will hit now that center fielder Denard Span's been added to the lineup. Span's likely to lead off and Jayson Werth's expected to either hit second or (fifth?) or sixth this season after spending most of the 2012 season hitting in front of Harper as the leadoff man. Where will Harper hit in 2013? Asked what he thought about Davey Johnson hinting that he might move out of the two-hole Harper said he'd prefer to stay there.
"I like the two-spot," Harper said. "I think it's a good spot for me especially with Denard leading off and [Ryan Zimmerman] behind me. But wherever [Davey Johnson] wants to put me is fine. Davey's a great manager, he's got a great mind and hopefully I'm always in the lineup. That's the only thing that matters to me."
"I just like the two-spot just because I know somebody's going to be in front of me the whole time," Harper said, "And I'm going to try to make things happen as best as I can. It doesn't really matter where I hit. I think we had a great lineup last year and we've got a great lineup coming into Spring Training this year, so I don't think we can go wrong with anything he puts together."
Harper liked hitting behind the Nats' patient right fielder. "Once Werth got into that one spot," Harper said, "I think things erupted a little bit. Having him see a lot of pitches, and take a lot of pitches and know the guy that was on the bump before I went up to the plate. Being able to do my routine in the on-deck circle and really watch that guy. Having Werth in front of me was good for me and he got me fired up every single time I went up to the plate. So, he made things happen and really got me fired up. Having him in the one-spot really helped me, having Zim in the three-spot did too. So, I thought that was a good mix right there, but also I think having Denard in the one-spot this year is going to be a lot of fun and that's a good lineup we've got, and like I said, anything he puts together is going to be great."
Davey Johnson joked with reporters this afternoon that his young outfielder told reporters one thing and him another when the Nats' skipper spoke to the Nats and national writers after Harper's press conference. "He thinks that's where I want to hit him because that's where I hit him pretty much last year," Johnson said, "With the addition of a left-handed bat leading off, I like to vary them. So this Spring is going to be kind of a test where I think they fit the best."
The Nats' 70-year-old skipper said it was all about making choices tougher for opposing managers when it came to matchups. "I think our lineup is [going] to be better balanced, left and right than it was any time in the past," Johnson said. "The two guys probably that I'm not sure where I'm going to hit [them] are probably [Harper] and Jayson Werth. And I haven't talked to Jayson yet and I'm sure he'll have a lot of input."
Johnson agreed with Harper, however, that he liked having Werth and Harper 1-2 last season. "It really worked pretty good last year with Jayson and Harp," the manager explained, "because pitchers had to use everything they had and they threw a lot of pitches to the first two guys. I know that Zim really liked that and the rest of the guys in the lineup [liked it] because they'd see basically the whole repertoire and it made it easier. If I had [Ian Desmond] up there, Desmond was hacking at anything he could reach. But I like Desi down in the lineup at six and we're just going to have to wait and see."
"All the options are good," Johnson concluded, "Whichever way it shakes out it's going to be a good lineup."
• Further Reading:
Washington Nationals' Lineup Chatter: Outfield Alignment; Where Will Jayson Werth Hit? + Span on Harper. sbn.to/Ui6A4d— federalbaseball (@federalbaseball) February 14, 2013