Could batting stance change get Bryce Harper to Nationals early this season?

Talk at the Winter Meetings regarding the Nationals outfield has general manager Mike Rizzo considering putting veteran Jayson Werth in center field. Werth enjoyed playing the spot in limited duty last season and did well defensively.

If the Nationals cannot get Denard Span or B.J. Upton through a trade and their other center field options dry up, one possibility could be to move Werth there for 2012.

This also could mean that No. 1 prospect Bryce Harper would be the Nationals right fielder as early as 2012. Many believe that the Nationals will still protect their long term free agent control of the phenom and bring him up after June 1. But even after two months, you still would have close to 100 games with Harper and the Nationals.

From all indications at the Arizona Fall League, Harper is very good at acclimating himself to a new opportunity and after a slow start, finding a way to excel and then dominate.

Nationals director of player development Doug Harris said a critical adjustment in Harper’s batting stance during the month of November helped him get into a major groove with the Scottsdale Scorpions.

“What he did at the fall league beyond the numbers (was) the adjustment he made in his approach,” Harris said. “(It) was pretty significant. We were really excited about it. He squared up his stance. His lower half was a little more quiet. He had better balance.

“I talk about this all the time. But when guys can stay in their legs, particularly Bryce, because he really involves his legs a great deal in his swing, it allows him to be more consistent and drive the baseball with more authority to all fields.

“He is such a strong young man, when he is able to stay in his legs and back up his contact, he is a threat pole to pole at any point in time.”

If the Nationals were to put him in right field, is there any concern for some of the errors he did commit during his play in Arizona? Harris said no. They were impressed with the plays Harper attempted to complete that showed off his plus-plus arm.

“Most of his miscues out there were errors of aggression,” Harris said. “That is a learning process that he continues to go through. He made some really fine plays. A lot of the errors were like throwing to bases or trying to make a spectacular play. That is not a concern at all. You would much rather have a player be over aggressive than passive.”

With these adjustments and Harper’s natural ability, the young star could make it a very interesting spring training as he pushes for a roster spot and gives Rizzo another major option for the Nationals outfield, even as early as 2012.

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