From his days in junior college and through the minors, Bryce Harper has typically started seasons slowly as an everyday player before bursting out. Harper has matched the first half of the pattern through one full week of games at the Arizona Fall League.
Harper has experienced one of the worst statistical starts of any player in the league, going 3 for 27 with one triple, three RBI, five strikeouts and two walks. He does have three stolen bases.
Now, seven games in the Arizona Fall League is not even close to a sample size worth causing alarm. And Harper turned 19 on Sunday, which makes him the youngest player in the Arizona Fall League even though this is his second year in the showcase for baseball’s best prospects.
Harper’s poor performance over seven games is not a big deal, especially considering the rust that accumulated when he missed more than three weeks at the end of Class AA Harrisburg’s season with a hamstring injury.
Still, the Nationals’ evaluation of Harper’s performance could have a direct impact on their offseason plans. The Nationals’ main offseason priority is adding a leadoff bat and a center fielder. But they have not yet ruled out Harper making the major league roster, and they believe they could play Jayson Werth at center if necessary. If the Nationals determine Harper is not ready, it would add more urgency to their search for a center fielder.
Here’s a quick update on the Nationals’ other AFL participants, all playing for the Scottsdate Scorpions, who are 3-7:
>> Infielder Zach Walters is 5 for 24 with two doubles and no walks.
>> Catcher Derek Norris is 4 for 20 with a double and two walks.
>> Sammy Solis has allowed five earned runs in seven innings on eight hits, four walks and two strikeouts.
>> Pat Lehman has allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings on seven hits, two walks, five strikeouts and two homers.
>> Rafael Martin has allowed one earned run in 2 1/3 innings on two hits, one walk and three strikeouts. .
>> Matt Purke allowed one run in two innings on one hit, one walk and one strikeout.