The Washington Nationals have their first full team workout today. Following pitchers and catchers reporting, position players have also trickled into camp, and now everyone else has arrived. Of course, the most interesting name showing up is Bryce Harper after he had offseason knee surgery and arrived in camp in fantastic shape — as if there was any question about that. Harper is at 220-pounds currently after he did get up to about 236-pounds during the winter, but he dropped the weight after starting to ride his bike.
One interesting tidbit regarding Harper was manager Matt Williams alluding to his line of thought regarding where he would hit Harper in the Nationals lineup. Williams spoke of batting Harper third or fourth, as is the expectation based of Harper’s power potential. However, the most interesting idea Williams spoke of is batting Harper fifth in the lineup. Fifth, according to Williams, allows Harper to clean up RBIs and also run more if he gets on base.
Of course fans will not like hearing this, as fans typically like to see players hit the long ball. Batting Harper third or fourth will allow him to hit more home runs, especially with the prospect of the hitters in front of him. Now, batting Harper third or fourth makes sense, but batting him fifth, at least to me, makes even more sense.
Think about it; Harper batting fifth puts him in a less pressurized position compared to the other two spots in the order, and it will definitely allow him to run more, steal more bases and become more of an all-around hitter. Harper is still only 21 and has not yet played 350 games as a professional, so there are still some situations where Harper may want to knock the ball out of the park rather than just get a hit or get on base somehow. Plus batting Harper lower allows him to steal more since the hitters that follow him will not be as strong compared to if he batted third and had a Jayson Werth or a Ryan Zimmerman hitting behind him. Harper’s speed and style could spur a rally with a steal and a single by the hitters following him.
Batting Harper fifth may not be the sexy decision by Williams, but it is a decision that will allow Harper to maximize his potential and utilize his entire skill-set. Harper will hit wherever he bats, but fifth will allow him to be a complete offensive player where he can spray the ball to all fields and not just focus on hitting it out of the park.