NORTH PORT, Fla. - It was a little surreal, Bryson Stott said last week, to be sitting inside the Phillies clubhouse at Spectrum Field.
The team’s first-round pick last June, Stott was called from minor-league camp for the day. But it wasn’t carrying his bat bag from the Carpenter Complex that made his day surreal or the Phillies uniform he wore or how the game looked when he leaned against the dugout rail or even playing the final four innings of a Grapefruit League game.
Instead, it was surreal for Stott to look across the clubhouse and see Bryce Harper as his teammate.
“I always looked up to him,” Stott said.
Stott, like Harper, grew up in Las Vegas. He was 12 years old when Harper left high school after just two years to enroll at a Nevada junior college. Stott’s mother, Shana, coached Harper’s sister, Brittany, in cheerleading. Stott wore Nationals hats around Las Vegas because of Harper. And now they were teammates in the same clubhouse.
“When I was little, I always looked at him as Bryce Harper the superstar. But as I have gotten older, he's my friend,” Stott said. “I still look at him as an idol -- how he does things. He left high school early to go play college and hits 30-something home runs. You pretty much know what's going to happen. Growing up, playing baseball, there was one person you wanted to be. The eyeblack on your face and everything. That was awesome.”
It will be some time until Stott and Harper are sharing a clubhouse on a regular basis. The Phillies called Stott, now 22, a polished hitter last June when they drafted him with the 14th pick and said he could have a “very favorable timeline” to reach the majors. But that timeline, even if expedited, likely does not have Stott in Philadelphia until 2021 or 2022.
The left-handed-hitting shortstop spent six weeks last summer with short-season class-A Williamsport, hitting .274 with an .816 OPS in 44 games. It was a glimpse of his potential, but a better view will come this season. Stott will likely start the season at low-A Lakewood, placing him on the track the Phillies used last season with third baseman Alec Bohm, the first-round pick in 2018.
Bohm moved last summer from Lakewood to high-A Clearwater to double-A Reading. He played three weeks in Lakewood, hit his way to Clearwater, and moved to Reading in the middle of June. Bohm should begin this season at triple-A Lehigh Valley, placing him just $6.50 in turnpike tolls from the major leagues. Stott, if he proves to be polished, could have the same rapid climb.
“We talked a little bit about that,” Bohm said. “I told him, ‘It doesn’t really matter where you start.’ At the end of the day, it’s about getting at-bats and it doesn’t matter where you get them. That sort of approach helped me. Obviously, you want to start higher up, but it shouldn’t matter. Go do your thing, wherever they put you. The rest takes care of itself.”
Bohm and Stott met for the first time this offseason while they both were in Clearwater. They were drafted a year apart, making it easy to imagine them manning the left side of the infield one day at Citizens Bank Park.
The Phillies don’t have a long-term commitment at shortstop -- Didi Gregorious is on a one-year deal -- and the team showed this winter that Jean Segura can be moved off third base just like he was bumped from shortstop if Bohm emerges.
And there they were last week, running together from the Phillies dugout to play the final innings of a major-league spring-training game. Stott stood at short with Bohm to his right at third. The future felt near.
“I didn't want to think about it. But I thought about it a couple of times,” Stott said. “During the pitching change. It was kind of like, 'This could be a thing.' It's pretty exciting.”
Harper had already left last Friday’s game and returned with the other veterans to the clubhouse, the one that Stott said was surreal to be in. The kid who used to mimic Harper by covering his face in eye black was finishing the game that Harper started. They chatted briefly in the dugout, but Stott let his idol be.
“He's so locked into the game and so ready for every pitch that's thrown,” Stott said. “So he does his thing. I do mine.”
Stott went 0-for-2, but the forceout he grounded into led to a throwing error in the ninth inning to give the Phillies a win. It wasn’t a hit, but it worked. Not bad for his first day in the majors.
Stott packed his bats into a red duffel bag and walked back across the Carpenter Complex to the tidy minor-league clubhouse. He’ll find out in a few weeks where he’ll begin the season.
And soon, he could rejoin Harper. His idol has 12 years left on his contract. There’s plenty of time for them to be teammates again.
“That's the goal,” Stott said. “You want to get up there and play for the Phillies and play for that city. That would be a dream come true. That's the ultimate goal.”
“He’s a Vegas kid, so I’m always rooting for him,” Harper said.