FBB's Jim Meyerriecks answered some questions for a series preview before the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees start their two-game set tonight in Nationals Park. What follows are two of the questions and answers and a link to the full Q&A on Neil Keefe's NY sports site KeeftotheCity.com:
Neil Keefe: In Bryce Harper's rookie year in 2012, he hit 22 home runs at the age of 19. In 2013, he hit 20. Last season, he hit 13. It's May 19 and he already has 14 this season and he's 22 years old! I said 22!
Aside from home runs, Harper leads the league in runs scored, RBIs, walks, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
How fun has it been to watch Harper over these three-plus seasons go from a teenager to possibly the most feared hitter in the majors? And I guess, how devastating will it be when he's a Yankee in a few years?!
FBB's Jim Meyerriecks: Overall, it's been a pleasure watching Harper grow before our eyes. That's not to say there haven't been some growing pains, though. Nationally, we always see labels like cocky... or brash... or immature. Harper's youthful exuberance is part of what makes him such a fun player to watch for Nationals fans, but it's also why he can be such a lightning rod with the media. Unfortunately, that youthful exuberance has actually had quite a few instances where it's cost both Harper and the Nats over the past few seasons. He's cost himself quite a bit of time due to injury after crashing into walls and tearing a ligament in his thumb on a head first slide.
As for his approach at the plate, that's as mature as it gets. Early this season, he's really showcased what are generally considered to be old player skills in the batter's box. It's always a fun cat and mouse game watching pitchers try to attack him. At just 22 years old, Harper is already growing into a player who very rarely swings at a "pitcher's pitch." He's dictating almost every plate appearance with his discipline and has been reaping the benefits over the first month and a half. This isn't something that happened over night, but it's a part of his game that has really evolved so far this season.
As for the future Yankee question, we'll see how it plays out. Harper is a Scott Boras client, so it would be a major surprise if he doesn't test free agency when he's eligible. We'll cross that bridge when we get there, though. Harper will be a National through at least 2018, so I'll enjoy him while he's here.
Neil Keefe: What is wrong with Stephen Strasburg? Last year's strikeout leader still has over a strikeout per inning, but he's allowed 55 hits in 40 2/3 innings, has a 5.98 ERA and 1.648 WHIP.
I thought the Yankees dodged a bullet by not seeing Scherzer and also Strasburg in this two-game series, but maybe I should have wanted them to see Strasburg right now?
FBB's Jim Meyerriecks: It hasn't been pretty watching Strasburg so far this season. He did tweak his ankle in spring training, which led to him wearing a brace. This seemed to do a number on his mechanics a bit, which led to him leaving a start a few weeks ago with pain under his shoulder blade. He's dealing with injuries and mechanical issues, and this seems to have done a number on his command. It's a never ending cycle. The next time he has a rough start, we're going to hear that he's breathing out of the wrong eyelid.
I kid, I kid. The command and mechanics have been the major issues, but there's also some small sample size noise in there. He's allowed a .380 BABIP to this point so far this season. His career BABIP against is .304, and the league average is about .295. While his batted ball profile suggests that his BABIP should be a bit higher than we're used to seeing (he's allowing a 26.5% line drive rate!), there's no way that doesn't start to normalize some. When the BABIP starts to come down, so will the WHIP... and the ERA. The stuff has still been there, so hopefully he can get more comfortable (healthier?) and put the mechanical issues behind him.
Check out the rest of the Q&A through the link below, and thanks to Neil for asking: