Earlier this month, Texas Rangers’ slugger Joey Gallo talked about what he’s seen from Bryce Harper this winter, as he and the Washington Nationals’ outfielder worked out in Las Vegas in preparation for the 2018 campaign. Gallo, it seems, has been impressed.
“At the workouts, he’s as focused as I’ve ever seen him,” Gallo said in an MLB Network Radio interview, as quoted by MLB.com’s Jamal Collier.
“He always is, but I mean, he’s going through those workouts like nothing now. He’s really focused, he’s hitting and just the way he’s talking, you can tell he’s really prepared.”
Harper, 25, was putting up MVP-type numbers, with a .326/.419/.614 line, 27 doubles, and 29 home runs in 106 games and 472 plate appearances before he injured his left knee and ankle when he slipped on a slick first base bag in early August and missed a month-plus on the Disabled List.
Harper returned for five games at the end of the regular season, and went 4 for 19 with a double and a home run in the NLDS, but it wasn’t the end of the season the Nationals’ right fielder was hoping for, obviously.
“I think what was tough for him was missing time last year with that injury,” Gallo added.
“Obviously, he didn’t put up the numbers and they didn’t win the amount of games that they wanted to win [in the postseason], and that was tough for him.”
Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo was asked about Gallo’s comments on Harper in an MLB Network Radio interview today, when hosts Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette wondered what the General Manager expects from the 2010 No. 1 overall pick in 2018.
“If he stays on the field 150 games, the sky is the limit,” Rizzo said. “I mean he’s going to put up offensive numbers that are going to be as good as anybody’s in the game, and he’s going to be a leader in the clubhouse and a guy that we’re going to count on to drive in the big runs at the biggest part of the game.
“So the key is he needs to stay healthy, and I think we dodged a bullet last year with the situation that he had at first base where things weren’t catastrophic. He missed a couple of months, but he came back at the end of the season.
“He’s feeling really, really good right now. I’ve been in contact with him a couple of times this offseason. He’s ready to go and it’s a big year for him and a big year for us.
“He’s the cornerstone of our lineup. He’s the key component in the middle of that thing and we’re looking forward and our expectation is he’s going to have a Bryce Harper-type of year, which is MVP-caliber stuff.
“So we’re encouraged by his health and his focus, and if this is the most focused he’s ever been, look out, because he’s always focused.”
There was, uh, no mention of any further negotiations on a potential extension for Harper, who is set to hit free agency next winter if he and the Nationals fail to agree on a long-term deal before then.
Earlier this winter, Rizzo said he wouldn’t be discussing Harper’s future publicly.
“We’re not going to discuss what we’re going to do with Harp, other than that we love having him in the organization,” he explained at the Winter Meetings.
“We’re the team that drafted him, developed him, and he’s performed greatly for us, but we’re going to keep all those discussions internal.”