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Friday, Mar. 02/2013
With the acquisition of Denard Span to play Center Field and bat Leadoff, a new defensive home had to be found for Harper. In 2012, advanced stats didn’t just rate Harper as a good defensive Center Fielder he was rated as a great one.
The Span move makes the Nats better in two positions of weakness and it also allows Harper to move to a more offensive position and focus on that aspect of his game. Left field is the second least important defensive position according to the defensive matrix, and often times it is the home of some of the games best sluggers.
For a quick comparison the average MLB Center Fielder hit for a 3 Slash Line of.265/.330/.418 in 2012 – and the average Left Fielder .261/.327/.431. While Left Field is traditionally a more offensive position current Left Fielders only managed a .009 OPS advantage over their CF brethren in 2012.
This doesn’t nor should it change the perception of Left Field as the less important defensive position of the higher offensive position. All it means is that there aren’t a lot of good Left Fielders right now. In WAR there are built-in bonuses for playing different positions, a good offensive player at an up the middle position will be rated higher than a good offensive player at a corner position, because an up the middle player that can hit is more valuable.
Bryce Harper Highlights as a 16 Year old hitting bombs and Tropicana Field 2009: