Harper has long been student of the game

Harper has long been student of the game

TORONTO -- Despite being the youngest player in the Major Leagues, Bryce Harper is an avid student of the game.

In fact, Nationals manager Davey Johnson says Harper has been studying opponents well before he stepped foot on a Major League diamond.

"He's a heck of a player, plays the game right, plays it hard," Johnson said. "He has a love for the game, more than anything. He's also a student of the game. He probably did more research and studying on big leaguers when he was 15 years old than most guys do their whole time up here."

Johnson has been around the game for a long time, so he would know firsthand how much preparation players put into the game.

Watching video is something Harper has always done, dating back to his high school years. It's different now because of the software players have at their disposal, but for Harper, the process is much simpler.

"Watching games, not even watching video, watching games and seeing what guys are doing," Harper said. "When I watch a baseball game, I try to sit back and watch, but then that passion comes back into me. At a young age it did. Just watching guys and thinking, 'Hey, I might face that guy one day,' or just looking at tendencies to see what they are doing to certain players like lefties like [Robinson] Cano or [Barry] Bonds -- all the power guys who can really swing it. I liked to watch and see what guys are doing, even at a young age.

"[You can] watch video to see what your swing looks like, if there are [pitchers] throwing a 1-0 curveball, what their percentages are. To be able to look at that and go back and see what your swing looked like or where that pitch was. Those kinds of things help everybody out."

Harper said he doesn't watch that much baseball anymore when he is away from the field, so relying on the video is a must. He does watch enough, however, to know how good a couple of the other young players around the league are doing.

"I talk to [Mike] Trout once, twice a week," Harper said about the 20-year-old Angels phenom with whom he played in the Arizona Fall League last year. "He's an unbelievable ballplayer, knows how to play, can't say enough good things about him. Plays the game the right way, plays it hard. You are going to get an All-Star-caliber guy out of him for the next 20 years of his career. I hope all the best for him, he's an unbelievable athlete, and an unbelievable guy also."

As for Brett Lawrie, who Harper didn't really know personally but got to meet during the Nationals' current trip in Toronto, he had nothing but good things to say about the Blue Jays' 22-year-old third baseman.

"A lot of people say that," Harper said, when told he has a lot of similarities to Lawrie. "He plays the game the right way, hard-nosed. Has sick pop, can run, picks it at third. Can't say enough good things about him either. He's unreal. Definitely fun to watch."