Bryce Harper Opens to Rave Reviews in Arizona Fall League Play

Posted by Dave Nichols | Thursday, October 21, 2010 | , | 0 comments »

I am not in Arizona, so I did not see Bryce Harper's debut in the Arizona Fall League last night with the Scottsdale Scorpions.  But I've spoken with a couple who did witness the event, and I've read all the accounts and can link a few here for you.

Let's start with the results:  Harper went 1-for-4 with a two-RBI ground rule double in his last at bat.  His outs were a towering pop fly to short left, a hard liner to center that hung up enough for the CF to make a shoestring catch, and a hard grounder to third.  He swung at six of the seven pitches he saw in four at bats.  The double was with the bases loaded and hit to left center that bounced on the warning track and over the fence.

From the accounts, there are two things that stand out about Harper's debut to me.  I'll let The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore set the scene for the first thing: 
On a ball hit into [the left centerfield] gap that occupied a pair of infielders as cutoff men, Harper bolted from right field to second base in order to cover the bag in case of a bad throw, just as Nationals instructor Tony Tarasco taught him last month in the Instructional League.
Harper, playing right field, saw that both the second baseman and shortstop went out for the relay and no one was covering second, so he hustled from right field to cover second if needed on the play.  This tells us two things about the just 18-year old outfielder. 

Number one, he's got good game-situation recognition, and that probably comes from playing catcher most of his career.  Second, he's listening to his coaching, which will go a long way in helping him get to the big leagues as quickly as possible.  So many times players with a strogn pedigree think they know that game, whenthey've really just been excelling and dominating physically inthe amateur level.  That Harper recognizes he has things to learn, and is willing to be instructed, shows a lot about his makeup.

The second biggest thing that stood out to me was in this picture from Getty Images that accompanied Keith Law's almost gushing review at (link to "Insider" article).

Getty Images
Can you spot it?  No batting gloves.  But more than that, his pinky on the bottom hand isn't even on the bat.  You can see how his ring finger is elevated from the the rest of his fingers on his right hand because it's on the knob of the bat.  It will be interesting to watch to see if the organization tinkers with that grip at all. 

Harper will play again Sunday, per the conditions of his placement on the taxi squad for the Scorpions.