Nationals hitting coordinator Rick Schu was in Scottsdale this week to coach and monitor Harper and the rest of the Nationals’ Arizona prospects, and he recently gave me an update on the number one draft pick’s progress.
Harper is batting .375, 3-for-8, with a double and 2 RBI in his first two games. His slugging percentage is .500 and his OPS is .875 with no errors in the field.
In his first game Wednesday, Harper went 1-for-4 with a bases loaded ground rule double. but Schu said Harper hit “three balls right on the screws”.
“Bryce just missed a fastball from hitting it 500 miles,” Schu said. “He had a great swing and was off just a tick.”
“The second at-bat he hit a two-strike line drive bullet that the center fielder caught. The third at-bat was a bullet one-hopper to the third baseman. Finally, the bases loaded opposite field hit was a ground rule double over the left fielder’s head.”
Saturday, Harper went 2-for-4.
“Again, he had good at bats - good game at bats,” Schu said. “Everything is slowing down for him now at the plate. He is seeing the ball well. The hardest part for him - and I knew this would be a concern - was not being able to play every day.
“He still gets batting practice every day, but you know he wants to play because he just loves the competition. He doesn’t know any other way.”
Harper is also gaining knowledge and repetition in right field, working on adjusting to his new position.
“I was really impressed with his work in right field,” Schu said. “He is a high energy guy in the right place at the right time. A lot of coaches and staff were watching him and it wasn’t a big crowd so we could hear him chattering out there, cheering for his pitcher.
Schu says he and field coordinator Bobby Henley noticed Harper was really into the games and communicating well with the guys.
“It is awesome to hear him pulling for his teammates. It is so refreshing.”
Schu says Harper is making the plays necessary to defend his position. Harper hasn’t mastered right field just yet, but he continues to make steady progress by executing the fundamentals.
“He is hitting the cut off man, taking good angles and is more under control,” Schu said.
“He is backing up bases. And switching from day games to night games in right, he is adjusting well to the lights and sunlight.”
Schu says Harper had a very good first week in Arizona.
“Overall, he is doing his job. It is amazing to me he is just 18 years old. He deals with the media and the fans very well. He gets questions like, ‘You struck out that first at bat, how did that feel?’. I mean, come on. He handles it all with class.”
Schu says having Randy Knorr as his manager and Alan Zinter as batting coach will really help Harper. Schu knew Zinter when he was with the Diamondbacks and says he can help Harper improve with each at bat, even if it is only two games per week.
Don’t forget to check out Mike Rizzo’s conference call and Bryce Harper encore on tonight’s Nationals 360 on Federal News Radio. Also available on nationals360.com every day.