Remember when Gabe Kapler decided to make his second base prospect, the one the team had just extended for a very long time, into a super utility player? At the time, you could squint and see that it sorta, kinda, maybe made sense. After all, Scott Kingery was blocked by Cesar Hernandez (well, “blocked”), who when Kapler arrived was still a semi-productive player and with a team that was still seeking regular offensive production, removing Hernandez in favor of Kingery wasn’t exactly the wisest move to make. So Kapler decided to try and hammer away at a square peg in a round hole and tried to make Kingery a regular utility, robbing him of important development time that he obviously needed and possibly changed the course of Kingery’s career.
Well guess what baby! Those experiments aren’t over yet!
That’s right, progressive manager Joe Girardi has decided that with the obvious overflow of outfield talent thanks to the presence of Andrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley, and Jay Bruce, someone is going to have to fill the utility player role now that Kingery is going to settle into second base full time. Naturally, that means Bryce Harper is the one who has to adapt. So, he has begun taking groundballs at third base in an effort to expand his defensive repertoire, using his 70-grade arm as a weapon from the hot corner.
This isn’t all that new of news either. Why, way back when “summer camp” opened, Harper was spotted by a camera taking groundballs:
So obviously, it wasn’t some sort of prank. The groundwork was being laid for the team’s most visible player to spread his wings and take flight at the hot corner.
A week ago, the very idea of Harper playing third was ludicrous. Sensational! Ghastly! After yesterday’s intrasquad scrimmage, the train has left the station and has begun to pick up steam.
While we still are two weeks away from actual games, there still exists the possibility that Harper’s long-term position with the team has yet to be settled. Sure, they signed him with designs on his patrolling the right field of Citizens Bank Park for the next 12 years, but with athleticism like he possesses, it would seem foolish to waste such a talent in only one spot. Girardi has seen the wisdom in this idea and will likely be moving him around the infield.
Of course, no examination of Harper’s defensive prowess at third would be complete without video evidence of his ability while there. Thanks to Meghan Montemurro, we have that evidence:
Bryce Harper gets some action at 3B, throwing out the runner at first: pic.twitter.com/9ZebaQESg5— Meghan Montemurro (@M_Montemurro) July 13, 2020
So, let’s grade each aspect of his game:
Lateral quickness - 55: look at where he was positioned to start and where he got to to make the play. Very impressive
Footwork - 50: Would’ve liked him to set his feet a little more to make a more accurate, chest high throw, but he wasn’t clumsy out there!
Arm strength - 70: even with Kyle Garlick running and time to spare, Harper’s release was so quick, so fluid, he could have waited another tick and still made the play on time
Arm accuracy - 45: the first baseman did have to stretch a bit
Now, most people don’t like to compare players to each other, especially defensively, when one player might be so far in front of another with the glove, it isn’t fair to compare them. Think Ozzie Smith and Michael Martinez.
But chances are that if Harper can continue getting incrementally better at the position each day in practice, the team might suddenly have a controversy on their hands. Add in the impending arrival of Alec Bohm and the team really has something to think about.