MLB.com Columnist

Bill Ladson

Harper aims to build on MVP campaign

Harper aims to build on MVP campaign

WASHINGTON -- Even though he won the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player Award, Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper wants to improve in all aspects of his game going forward.

With Davey Lopes as the first-base coach, Harper wants to get better when it comes to running the bases. Harper would like to steal more bases than he did in the past. He hopes new manager Dusty Baker will allow him to do just that. Harper plans to pick Baker's brain when it comes to hitting and outfield defense. After all, Baker was one of the best all-around players during the 1970s and '80s.

"Learning from a guy like Baker, it's very exciting, very fun. It just makes the game that much better," Harper said. "Coming into this year, I'm just trying to get better. Hopefully, I can get a little better on the basepaths for Davey and Dusty and talk to them about that. We'll see where that lies. That means we are going to score some more runs."

Nobody can complain about the year Harper had in 2015. Harper was a one-man show while many of his teammates were injured or struggled. Despite not having protection in the lineup, Harper hit .330, led the NL in home runs (42, tied with Colorado's Nolan Arenado), runs scored (118), on-base percentage (.460) and slugging percentage (.649).

Harper is the only player in Major League Baseball history with at least 42 home runs, 124 walks and 118 runs scored at age 22 or younger, and he is the youngest player in MLB history with at least 42 home runs and 124 walks in a season. The previous youngest was Babe Ruth, who hit 54 home runs and had 150 walks in 1920 at the age of 25.

Harper gave credit for his season to former Nationals manager Matt Williams.

"He was unbelievable, but he was also good to talk to every day, hitting-wise," Harper said. "I spoke to him a couple of times this offseason. I wished him best of luck and I'll see him down the road."

The only negative during 2015 for Harper's confrontation with closer Jonathan Papelbon in the dugout on Sept. 27 at Nationals Park. After the season ended, the two settled their differences. Harper doesn't foresee any problems next year.

"Last year is behind us," Harper said. "I'm not worried about last year. It was a terrible year because of what we were about. We need to go into this year with the right mentality, the winning mentality of going in there with a chip on our shoulders trying to win ballgames. Hopefully everybody can count us out, so we can prove everybody wrong."

Bill Ladson is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the Time. He also can be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.