Nationals hitting coordinator Rick Schu gave me an update on how some of the young hitters are doing in the accelerated camp during spring training.
We start with the biggest name in camp in Bryce Harper, who returned to the lineup Sunday and was able to smack a double and score a run early on in the game.
Another prospect you may have not heard of is a converted shortstop Michael Taylor. Schu says Taylor has opened some eyes with a good showing throughout camp at his new position in center field.
But as for Harper, a lot of opposing pitchers in Low-A will try to make a name for themselves by striking him out.
“He will be a marked man because of his talent and reputation,” Schu said. “He will be pitched around. He will be pitched back. It will be a big test of his plate discipline.
“He will face fastball counts. Guys will throw sliders on his back foot. He will go through what Stephen Drew and Justin Upton went through while I was with the Diamondbacks. Everybody will know he is there.”
Upton had a full year in Low-A Midwest league. The following year he was at Double-A in the California league before getting called up during a pennant race.
Schu was amazed how quickly Harper has bounced back after hurting his ankle just one week ago.
“It is amazing his ankle was never swollen after the injury,” Schu said. “He got a double Sunday, scored on a sacrifice fly, looked good running today. He had hit three jacks before he hurt his ankle.”
Schu says Harper will not be fazed by the sparse conditions in Low-A, whether its long bus trips or average hotels.
“Harper will compete, regardless of what level he is at. He just loves to play the game, whether it is in Hagerstown or D.C. He has the respect of his teammates.”
Schu says Harper did a good job defensively in Arizona, and has continued to work on his play in the outfield throughout the major league and accelerated camps.
“Defensively, Harper is an athlete,” Schu said. “He backs up the right bases and takes good routes to the ball.”
One player that doesn’t share the early notoriety of a Harper but has certainly gotten the attention of the coaching staff is the 20-year-old Taylor.
A sixth-round selection in 2009, Taylor is making a very favorable impression as he transitions from shortstop to center field this season. Taylor played 38 games in the Gulf Coast league for the Nationals in 2010, mostly at shortstop and never out of the infield.
Taylor played in five games with Hagerstown at the end of the season and is projected to begin the year with the Suns. He just might be playing alongside Harper in the same outfield to begin 2011.
“He really is a sleeper,” Schu said. “He reminds me of a young Devon White in the outfield. He can track down any ball. Taylor has been a pleasant surprise. He has had a good camp and has a good shot at A-ball.”