This Spring Training should be an interesting one for Bryce Harper and the Washington Nationals. While he packs a punch with his star power, everyone will be focusing on his left knee.
Harper will be entering his third season in MLB (already?) and he will be looking for his third All-Star Game appearance. Despite missing nearly a month of action last season, he still made the squad. On the year, Harper had a slash line of .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs and 58 RBI. All three of his averages went up from his rookie year, a very good sign for Washington.
As previously stated, Harper’s knee headlines the storylines for Washington this year. He missed nearly a month after crashing into the outfield walls in Los Angeles and Atlanta. Over the offseason, he underwent some expected surgery on his knee and told reporters that the doctor had his work cut out for him in there. He also said people didn’t realize exactly how bad of shape his knee was in.
So, that’s what makes this interesting. Harper is an all-out-all-the-time kind of player, and that’s not good when you’re recovering from an injury. You want to push it to see how it’s actually doing, but you don’t want to regress. For new manager Matt Williams and the training staff, they’ll need to keep him on a short leash early on.
Harper’s knee isn’t the only thing that’s making his Spring Training arrival so anticipated. He also set some high goals in the offseason. He told reporters that he wanted to enter “as big as a house” and even threw out 245-pounds as an estimated weight. That seems like a lot, but Harper weighed 235 last year. Either way, a 245-pound Bryce Harper would be a terrifying sight for opposing pitchers.
Last year, Harper had arguably the best spring of any Nationals player. He hit .484 with three homers, 15 RBI and stole six bases. Will he be that good again? I don’t think so, because you need to consider how they’ll treat his knee. However, don’t expect him to have a quiet spring, either.
The Nationals say that Harper will be going full speed ahead this Spring despite what’s been said about his knee. Is that a good idea? Maybe not, but Mike Rizzo has been known for taking injuries to his players very seriously. While spring could be slow, expect Harper to 100-percent ready for Opening Day.