At the Harper house in Las Vegas, Saturdays in the fall are for watching Ohio State football with family and friends.
Bryson Stott has a standing invitation.
“He’s at my house every weekend,” Bryce Harper said Thursday after the Phillies’ workout in Clearwater, Fla. “We’re always watching Buckeye football and hanging out.”
Stott, a 23-year-old shortstop and the Phillies’ first-round pick in 2019 out of UNLV, was invited to the team’s spring-training minicamp, which is populated by 19 minor leaguers. But he has an influential advocate in Harper, the $330 million right fielder and Stott’s spring-training housemate.
Because of the pandemic, Stott’s pro career consists of 48 games, most at the short-season A-ball level, in 2019. He likely won’t be ready for the big leagues until some time next year, at the earliest.
But Harper, whose wife played soccer at Ohio State and is the root of their fandom, is doing what he can to mentor Stott and other minor leaguers, not unlike Jayson Werth did for him early in his career with the Washington Nationals. To wit: Last year, he gave a surprise welcome to the Phillies’ draft picks by FaceTiming each of them.
With 11 years left on his contract, Harper is taking an interest in their development. Thursday, he emphasized the importance of not trading Stott, pitcher Mick Abel, and others from a farm system that he characterized as “kind of depleted.”
“We have the ability to have guys come up and help us win,” Harper said. “Just look at [third baseman Alec] Bohm last year.”
Unsurprisingly, Harper is bullish on Stott, even comparing the 6-foot-3 left-handed hitter to a few former All-Stars.
“He’s a good mix of [shortstops] J.J. Hardy and Brandon Crawford,” Harper said. “A guy who makes every play. He’s not super-flashy, but he has the arm like Crawford does and very good up the middle. The game isn’t too big for him. He’s very even keel. I would imagine he has a very similar swing -- doubles to left, homers to right -- as Garret Anderson. I know that’s pretty good praise because he was a very good hitter.
“If [Stott] pushes the envelope, he’s a big leaguer. He’s a very good player and he’s going to do whatever he can to get to the big leagues, whether that’s playing second or shortstop. But he knows that he has to be out there every single day. If he’s not going to work, he’s not going to be here.”
Sounds strict. Does that mean Stott has a curfew this spring?
“He can do whatever he wants,” Harper said, laughing.