|Harper Should Begin Season in Minors||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on March 17, 2012
At just 19 years old, Washington Nationals super prospect Bryce Harper has a long and prosperous baseball career ahead of him. But there's one word that we will constantly hear associated with Harper: patience.
The debate whether or not to have Harper start in right field for the Nationals this season has been a hot topic. Jayson Werth is currently the Nats' starting right fielder, but he would shift to center if Harper were to make the ball club out of spring training.
At MLB's annual B.A.T. Dinner in late January in New York City, Nationals manager Davey Johnson corrected a reporter who asked him how excited he was to have Harper on his ball club.
"Harper hasn't quite made my club," Johnson said. "But he'll be given every opportunity to try."
Realistically, you have to look at the big picture here. Harper is, once again, just 19 years old and hasn't played a game above Class AA. Even in the games he has played there, he experienced his growing pains.
The Nationals are expected to be a significantly improved team in 2012. A healthy Stephen Strasburg will be joined by former Oakland A's stud pitcher Gio Gonzalez atop the Nats rotation. A young core of Ryan Zimmerman, Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa and Wilson Ramos should pair nicely with veterans Michael Morse, Adam LaRoche and Werth.
Since the expectations are high for this team, putting the pressure on a 19-year-old kid to produce in the middle of the order may not be in the best interests of the franchise. The team is more likely to keep Werth in right field for now and have Roger Bernadina and Rick Ankiel split time in center. In that way, Harper can get some more seasoning before being thrust into Major League action.
But that being said, the Nats will likely monitor Harper's progress extremely closely. If he's tearing up the minor leagues in either Class AA or Class AAA, we might see Harper get the call to the bigs around midseason.
If the Nats falter early, that may be another factor that brings Harper to the majors. He can be a spark of energy that could revive a season.
No matter where Harper opens the season, he needs to be playing every single day. The only way to get better in baseball is to be involved in every situation the game presents. There's no point in the Nats carrying him on their Opening Day roster if he's going to sit on the bench and watch.
So right now, the best bet is for Harper to show he can produce in Class AAA. The call to the bigs may come at an unexpected time, so Harper needs to always be ready.
Once again, patience will be key for the young, talented outfielder.