Bryce Harper expects to play all weekend, wants teammates to 'ride on his shoulders'

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Bryce Harper expects to play all weekend, wants teammates to 'ride on his shoulders'

TAMPA, Fla. — Bryce Harper is used to being received negatively whenever he hits the road. It was his reception when he'd come to Philly, it might be his reception when he returns to D.C. this season and beyond, and it was the case Wednesday night when the Phillies visited George M. Steinbrenner Field.

When Harper stepped to the plate for the first time in his third spring training game ... well, the Yankees fans weren't saying Boo-urns

This is the life of a charismatic superstar. Fans boo who they can't have. I asked Harper Wednesday night if he feeds off of it like a heel in wrestling.

"You hear 'em, but I've been hearing 'em so long," he said. "Every season, every stadium I go into, I expect to get booed. Just part of the game, I don't know if it helps me or not."

In his third game of the spring, Harper went 0 for 2 with a strikeout and a soft groundout to first base against Masahiro Tanaka. In his third plate appearance, he reached via catcher's interference on the second pitch and stole second base. He asked the home plate umpire if he could stay in to hit, but he was told to go to first.

Harper expects to play for the Phillies in all three games in Clearwater this weekend: Friday vs. the Blue Jays, Saturday vs. the Astros and Sunday vs. the Yankees. All games are 1:05 p.m. start times. Friday's game is on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ and the next two are on NBC Sports Philadelphia. All three are on the MyTeams app.

Prior to Wednesday's game, Harper met Yankees legend Reggie Jackson while taking batting practice. 

"Just being able to talk to him for a second, Reggie Jackson knows who I am and that is pretty cool," Harper said. 

There are probably a few young players in Phillies camp who feel that way about Harper, who's been a star since he was a teenager. One of the benefits of having a player like Harper in the clubhouse is that the young guys can look to him when things are going south and see how he handles it. 

There are few better players than Harper to seek out for advice on how to handle all this newfound attention the Phillies will have.

Last season, Rhys Hoskins became the de facto guy in the Phils' clubhouse to speak after most games, win or lose. Hoskins handled it incredibly well because he's a 26-year-old who's mature and polished beyond his years. He's still a leader for these Phillies but doesn't have to carry as large a load every single day if he doesn't want to.

Harper shared his own thoughts Wednesday on how he handles all the attention thrown his way and what advice he'd give to his even younger teammates.

"I'm not really worried about people with microphones or notepads or anything like that. Just try to go out there and be yourself," he said. "If you have a bad game, talk to the media. If you have a good game, talk to the media. It's one of the big things that's tough for young guys and I was part of that as well — 19 (years old) coming up sometimes 0 for 4, I'm sitting there going, golly, I don't want to talk to them again. But also, I want them to be able to lean on me and say I can't do it today and I'll answer those questions as well. 

"I want to be able to be a guy that lets them ride on my shoulders a little bit and if I have to talk to the media one day for them, I will. But like I said, play the game you know how to play. Enjoy what you do. ... Don't be scared and try to enjoy it. If they're talking to you, just enjoy. They've got a job to do just like you guys and people need to understand that. That's the biggest thing."

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

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Phillies' 2020 World Series odds are pretty surprising

Most of the baseball world agrees that the Phillies are improved with the additions of No. 2 starter Zack Wheeler, shortstop Didi Gregorius, and the new contingent of manager Joe Girardi, pitching coach Bryan Price and hitting coach Joe Dillon.

The question is how much improved?

The Phils won 81 games last season, a year after winning 80. Both years, they totally collapsed in September. Both years, a good number of players were simply playing out the string, though the effort level was more questionable in 2018 than in 2019.

Even though the Phillies were quiet this offseason after their two big signings, and even though the NL East is still a beast, they should still exceed 81 wins. If they don't, there's a serious problem. If they don't, the GM probably won't be here to try to rectify things next offseason.

The over/under win totals are out and the Phillies' number is 85.5 at FanDuel and 84.5 at DraftKings.

I'd go over at 84.5. Think about how many injuries the Phillies suffered last season. Think about the talent gap between Wheeler and every Phillies starting pitcher behind Aaron Nola last season. The impact of Girardi, Price and Dillon won't be all that quantifiable, but it is realistic that this revamped coaching staff can conjure a few more wins out of the 2020 Phillies, whether it's in-game decision-making or better instructions given to young players who underperformed last season.

At DraftKings, the Mets' over/under is a game better than the Phillies' at 85.5. The Braves are at 90.5 and the Nationals 88.5. The Marlins are at 64.5, higher than only one team, the Tigers.

Much more surprising are the Phillies' World Series odds. They have the sixth-shortest odds to win it all. Seriously. They're +1800. Here is the Top 10:

Yankees: 3.5/1
Dodgers: 5/1
Astros: 6/1
Braves: 11/1
Nationals: 14/1
Phillies: 18/1
Mets: 20/1
Twins: 20/1
Red Sox: 22/1
Cubs: 22/1

Apparently, the expectation is that the NL Central will be bringing up the rear in 2020. Really, the only NL Central team that improved was the Reds. The Cardinals lost Marcell Ozuna, the Brewers lost Yasmani Grandal and the Cubs didn't spend money on a single major-league free agent.

Four of the top seven teams being NL East teams just shows you how much of a battle these next seven months will be for the Phils.

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Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Phillies prospects Spencer Howard and Alec Bohm make Baseball America's Top 100 list

Baseball America’s always interesting Top 100 Prospects list landed this week and the Phillies are represented with two players in the top half.

Starting pitcher Spencer Howard ranks 27th on the list and third baseman Alec Bohm 28th. Both players are projected to open the coming season at Triple A and get to the majors at some point in 2020. Both have been invited to major-league spring training camp, which begins in less than three weeks in Clearwater. See the complete list of Phillies’ in-house non-roster invites here.

Howard, a 23-year-old right-hander, was the Phillies’ second-round draft pick in 2017. We profiled him here.

In its story on the Top 100 prospects, Baseball America offered this take on Howard: Triple-digit fastball, swing-and-miss curveball and the ability to work the edges of the strike zone, Howard flashes front-end potential.

Bohm, 23, was the third overall pick in the 2018 draft. He hit .305 with 21 homers, 80 RBIs and a .896 OPS at three levels, including Double A in 2019. We profiled him here.

Baseball America offered this take on Bohm: Even with questions about whether he’ll have to move to first base, Bohm has the feel to hit and plus power to hit in the middle of the Phillies’ order, and soon.

Shortstop Wander Franco of the Tampa Bay Rays was ranked No. 1 on Baseball America’s list for the second year in a row. The Rays placed eight players on the list. Because of a loaded farm system, the Rays were unable to protect left-hander Cristopher Sanchez on their 40-man roster and the Phillies traded for him in November. Read about Sanchez here.

The Los Angeles Dodgers placed seven players on the list and the Minnesota Twins and San Diego Padres had six each.

The Miami Marlins led National League East teams with five players in the Top 100, including former Phillies pitching prospect Sixto Sanchez, who was traded for J.T. Realmuto a year ago. Sanchez ranks 16th on the list and is projected to arrive in the majors sometime in 2020.

The Atlanta Braves placed four players on the list and the Washington Nationals and New York Mets joined the Phillies with two players.

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