The Nationals want Harper to play a lot of center field while at Triple-A Syracuse. That would give Harper significant experience at all three outfield positions, dating back to March 2011.
Updated: A Nationals source said they anticipate Moore will play mostly at first base, but he could see a few games in the outfield.
During instructional league workouts in October, the Nationals focused on first baseman Tyler Moore playing in the outfield for the first time. That experiment should continue in Syracuse, as well. It would be interesting to see if both Harper and Moore could end up next to each other in the Chiefs’ outfield this season.
Nationals outfield coordinator Tony Tarasco said Moore, who has crushed 62 combined homers the past two seasons, made excellent progress in his first opportunity in the outfield and continues to work on honing that craft before the regular season begins.
“Yes, I think he is going to get some outfield play,” Tarasco said. “I am glad that we have actually started preparing him for it because it is an option with him. When you take that type of thunder of his bat you tend to find positions for guys who can hit the ball like that.”
Tarasco believes working with Moore early will help him in the long run, so he can be more versatile when he gets to the Nationals.
“The fact that we are not waiting to the last minute to start the process is going to help him make the transition,” Tarasco said. “The preparation that he takes (is impressive). He is another one who has a relentless approach to learning the game on a daily basis. His tenacity to get better and get the best out of his tools is impeccable.
“I don’t expect Tyler Moore to wow you (in the outfield), but I do expect Tyler Moore to make the routine plays. And with his baseball intellect, he is the type guy who will throw the ball to the right base. He is going to make sure he doesn’t miss cutoff men, the little pet peeves that haunt baseball teams (if those plays aren’t made) during the season when they are trying to win baseball games.”
Tarasco used former Orioles teammate and Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. as an example of a player who changed positions over the years. Ripken shared advice with Tarasco about he stayed at shortstop for so long in his career.
“When I was playing with him in 1996 and 1997, especially 1996 when it was one of his final years at shortstop, I remember Cal talking about what he was working at shortstop,” Tarasco said. “Cal said he was really trying to fine-tune his first step angles on balls because he didn’t have the speed and the foot quickness to get to them but with the proper angles he could do it.
“Tyler has the same approach. He understands his capabilities with his speed and his athleticism and he tries to have a better first step and tries to set the correct routes to the ball.”
But Tarasco noticed Moore also got aggressive in the offseason with his workouts, specifically focusing on fielding from the outfield.
“He took the time to work on his agility and work on his speed. So he has actually gained a about a half a step, and has become more agile with his footwork. I think that is going to fall right into place when they do take him to the outfield,” Tarasco said.
Tarasco said Moore needs games in the outfield to gain that experience of how defense is different that far from home plate.
“He does need playing time and he needs the opportunity to see the ball come off the bat,” Tarasco said. “There are things that I cannot teach until it is live.”