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Bryce Harper batting third for Nationals would make history

Mar 7, 2013, 2:14 PM EDT

Bryce Harper Reuters

Ryan Zimmerman has been the Nationals’ primary No. 3 hitter for several years now, but manager Davey Johnson said yesterday that he’s leaning strongly toward moving Bryce Harper into the third spot this season because “he’s a tough out, he doesn’t swing at bad pitches, and he uses the whole field.”

He’s also still just 20 years old and hitters that young simply don’t hit third very often. In fact, in the entire history of baseball only one 20-year-old hitter has started more than 100 games batting third: Hall of Famer Al Kaline for the Tigers in 1955. He hit .340 that year and finished runner-up to Yogi Berra for AL MVP.

In addition to Kaline the only other 20-year-olds to start more than 80 games as No. 3 hitters are Arky Vaughan for the Pirates in 1932, Cesar Cedeno for the Astros in 1971, and Ken Griffey Jr. for the Mariners in 1990. Harper would be the fifth all time, assuming Johnson sticks with his plan for at least half the season.

  1. 18thstreet - Mar 7, 2013 at 2:21 PM

    I love Bryce, but he absolutely swings at bad pitches. I have no idea what Davey Johnson is talking about.

    • natslady - Mar 7, 2013 at 2:45 PM

      Yeah. Hope he has conquered off-speed pitches from lefties…

      Davey wants L-R-L-R-L-R-Sw (Span, Werth, Harper, RZim, LaRoche, Desi, Espinosa). We’ll see if he sticks with it.

    • natslady - Mar 7, 2013 at 3:01 PM

      Just looked him up on Fangraphs. He swung outside the zone about 1/3 of the time. Jayson Werth swung outside the zone less than 1/4 of the time. Our new guy, Denard Span, 22%. Espinosa – 40%. (from Fangraphs.)

      • jakkispeed - Mar 7, 2013 at 4:21 PM

        I would like to think that part of the reasoning for batting him 3rd would be to utilize his speed instead of putting Zimmerman at 3 and Harper at cleanup. Makes sense to me.

      • ncphilliesguy - Mar 8, 2013 at 7:45 AM

        Werth is a very disiplined hitter, in fact the only disiplined hitter with the Phils in 08.

    • polonelmeagrejr - Mar 8, 2013 at 7:03 AM

      I loved Kaline – used to be one of my favorite players. FOr some reason I have memories of him leaning into the RIght field seats and robbing home runs at the Stadium.

  2. randygnyc - Mar 7, 2013 at 2:38 PM

    He became more disciplined throughout the year was my understanding. True?

    • pappageorgio - Mar 7, 2013 at 3:20 PM

      This was my thought as well. Trout was the one who came out on fire and then cooled off.

      The way I remember it Bryce started a bit slow and then got better as the year progressed.

      But then…..I’m just using my memory and not fangraphs

      • Kevin S. - Mar 7, 2013 at 3:35 PM

        Fangraphs doesn’t have monthly splits for plate discipline, but if we’re just looking at performance. he started out strong, dipped in June, cratered in July and August before roaring back in September.

      • rakattack98 - Mar 7, 2013 at 9:12 PM

        Pappa – You are slightly off. Trout started off the charts and came down but still stayed above average all year. Harper came out blazing then cooled off when pitchers found out he had a hard time with off speed stuff and then after the all star break he adjusted and turned it back on. It was actually really impressive to see him take his lumps and not get discouraged and come back, settle down, and ball out.

  3. darthicarus - Mar 7, 2013 at 2:55 PM

    That Nationals team is going to be fun to watch again this year. NL seems to have quite a few teams that could challenge for a spot in the World Series this year.

  4. florida727 - Mar 7, 2013 at 3:41 PM

    An Arky Vaughan citing? Amen brother!

  5. jcarne9014 - Mar 7, 2013 at 8:12 PM

    If this kid can keep his head on straight, he will be one of the all-time greats.

  6. pellypell - Mar 7, 2013 at 9:31 PM

    The kids earned it.

  7. weaselpuppy - Mar 7, 2013 at 11:26 PM

    Cedeno to me is the most relevant historical Trout comp….hopefully Trout doesn’t get hurt and flame out like Cesar did,,,boy was he a player in his early 20s….

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