AFL Scouting Report: November 1

Brett Harper is learning the tricks of hitting - and hitting for power - from his dad, former major leaguer Brian Harper. The lessons are paying off and Harper simply has to wait his turn to take over at first base for the Mets. Plus, Ryan Howard is finally out in left field. And failure leads to a win for Dan Giese.

Brett Harper knows where he is.

"This is the best of the best down here. If your organization has confidence in you, and you put up numbers, they send you here. It's the best pitching, the best hitters, the only thing a lot of guys here really need work on is defense." Harper said from Mesa, AZ where his Peoria Saguaros were warming up before an Arizona Fall League game.

And what is Harper here for?

"I'm learning so much about the game. Some guys say that when you get to this point you already know everything, but I'm still learning, and I want to still be learning."

Specifically Harper is learning about hitting. "I'm trying to let the ball get deeper in the hitting zone, just trusting that my hands are quick enough to get through and drive the ball."

Harper had always been a prospect the Mets had their eye on, but this past season his numbers, and his power numbers specifically, exploded. True to the nature of a kid still learning, he knows why. "After last season my dad [former Minnesota Twins catcher Brian Harper] and I sat down and worked on my swing, trying to get more power out of it. I did my time in the weight room, and upped those workouts, but really it was my dad and I changing my swing that I think really helped."

Some organizations worry about too many chefs spoiling the sauce, but the Mets have had absolutely no problems with Harper being tutored by...Harper. "I think the Mets know that the best way to learn hitting is by working with hitters, so they have been happy my dad and I are working together. He's there for advice, he's there to help me stay confident."

So Harper is hitting, and hitting well. What is it that AFL can give him? "You're always working on hitting, but I've got to get better in the field. The Mets are a National League team, there's no DH here. I'm a first baseman, so I'm involved in a lot of plays. The better I am in the field, the more valuable I'll be to the team."

Watching Harper, you can see the work ethic. During warm ups everybody gets their work in, and then there's time to hang out, talk with the other players, catch up, but the younger Harper is at first, taking ground ball after ground ball. He looks comfortable.

"I'm getting that way," Harper says with a smile, "but I know there's more work to be done." And then he begs off the interview to...take more ground balls.

Harper is easy to talk to, there's no arrogance, no cockiness about him, but when infield practice is over and the reporter is still there, its obvious he's ready for the interview to be done, but the last question is also easily answered. The Mets have officially moved Mike Piazza to first, where does that leave Harper?

"He's one of the best hitters in the league, but I can't worry about who's in front of me. Nobody knows what's going to happen. If I start thinking about the guys ahead of me, I'm in trouble. Everyone down here is behind somebody up in the big leagues, we're all in the same boat. I work hard, I produce, and the Mets are watching," he points up toward the stands where six or seven scouts watch the players work out, "the better I play, the more they will notice. If I'm good enough they'll find a place for me to play."

For Harper, that place could be Shea sooner rather than later.

Phillies in the desert: Ryan Howard's first day as an outfielder went pretty well, and he may get another shot or two in left field during the AFL season. Howard played left field last Friday before being the DH in Saturday's game. Before and after games, Howard has been working in the outfield, but hadn't played there before Friday. Teams are designated positions to fill and the Phillies fulfilled their outfield commitment by sending Chris Roberson. That means that Howard is somewhat stuck at first base, except when some opportunities arise. Howard played the entire game in LF and looked relatively comfortable… Dan Giese had his toughest outing in a while on Saturday, but wound up getting the win. Giese surrendered a run in the top of the 11th on Saturday, but his Desert Dogs teammates came back to score two in the bottom of the inning and turn what would have been a loss for Phoenix and Giese into a win for both. Giese is now 2-0, 3.46 on the AFL season.

Editor's Note: James Renwick is the managing editor of FutureBacks.com, a web site dedicated to covering the Arizona Diamondbacks. He is also covering the AFL for Scout.com.

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