In his first major league season, as a 19-going-on-20-year-old, Bryce Harper was the Washington Nationals' two-hole hitter for 117 of the 139 games he played, with a .270/.337/.448 line, 20 doubles, nine triples, 20 HRs, 48 walks and 107 Ks in 525 plate appearances in that spot for the NL East Division Champions.
Harper hit second just eight times in 2013, with then-Nats' manager Davey Johnson moving the second-year outfielder around for 16 games leading off and 19 hitting cleanup, but most of the time, the Nationals' 2010 no.1 overall pick was penciled in the three-hole in the order where he had a .268/.374/.504 line, 14 doubles, 14 HRs, 43 walks and 61 Ks in 302 PAs.
New Nationals' skipper Matt Williams was asked during his appearance with Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier on 106.7 the FAN in D.C. this week where he would have Harper hitting in 2014:
"I think it depends," Williams said. "I asked him during one our conversations where he's most comfortable. He said he likes two. He likes three. He's hit four, and of course he's hit leadoff. He may hit five sometimes depending on who is on the mound for the opposing club and what kind of matchups are there. But, I would like to establish roles for guys certainly and I'd like to establish places in the lineup so they can feel comfortable when they walk in on any given day, that they have an idea of where they're at."
"But I think it will change," the rookie manager continued. "Some days we may have to stack righties against a left-handed pitcher, and he may have to move around a little bit. I've told him that and he's okay with it. But I want him in a position where he can free himself, that he sees an opportunity to steal a base he can do that. I think he's got the ability, because he hits the ball to left-center so well, that he can clean up a lot of RBIs for us and provide him an opportunity to do that.
"So, does that speak to four? It may speak to five? And against a certain pitcher, it also may speak to the two spot because we can let him go a little bit and get in scoring position for the rest of the guys. So, long answer-short, I think it depends on the matchups."
Harper got off to a hot start last April with a .344/.430/.720 line, six doubles, nine home runs, 14 walks and 16 Ks in the first 107 PAs of his second MLB campaign. The month ended with Harper hurting himself leaping into the right field wall in Atlanta's Turner Field.
Another collision in LA caused further damage to the outfielder, who said he was never 100% again after the first of the two high-impact run-ins.
He missed a month on the DL and posted a .254/.351/.420 line with 18 doubles and 11 HRs in 390 PAs over the rest of the season. After the 2013 campaign ended, he had knee surgery. Harper is expected to be 100% at Spring Training.
Where would you hit Harper in the 2014 Nationals' lineup?
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