5 Reasons the Nationals' Bryce Harper Shouldn't Start 2012 in the Majors
The fans have been calling for Bryce Harper since he was drafted. They've seen too many YouTube videos of his moonshots off high school pitching.
The Nationals told their fans they have a plan for the kid, and they intend to let it play out. There will be no rushing Harper to the majors. They followed a similar plan for Stephen Strasburg, and by the time he got to the majors, the hype had reached a fever pitch.
Of course, then he got hurt and was lost for most of 2011.
It's easy to get excited about players like Harper, but in that excitement, one's judgement can be clouded. Having Harper on the team might be best for attendance, but is it best for him? No.
Is it best for the team as a whole? No.
1. Age and Maturity Issues
Bryce Harper has been larger than life since early in his high school career, playing on national teams and having his games packed with scouts.
With that, many scouts have seen a swagger in his play reserved for those who have proven they are among the elite players. Everyone remembers the replays of Harper being tossed from a game after he was called out on strikes, throwing his helmet and getting in the umpire's face.
Harper also made headlines when he blew a kiss at an opposing pitcher as he trotted around the bases after a home run. There's no place for that. It was one home run off of a minor league pitcher.
Until Harper grows up, he shouldn't be in the majors.
2. He Hasn't Proven Himself in the Minors
Hype is the one thing that can get a player to the majors without having to prove himself at the minor league level.
Yes, Bryce Harper hit .318 with a .977 OPS at A-ball Hagerstown, but in the final 37 games of the season when he was moved to Double-A Harrisburg, he wasn't particularly outstanding. Harper batted .256, and his OPS was .724.
Those aren't the numbers of a pro-ready player. To call a 19-year-old up, he has to be dominating the highest minor league level. Harper was also learning to defend a position he hadn't played before. That takes time even if the bat is ready.
Think about this. In seven starts at Triple-A, Stephen Strasburg had a 1.17 ERA and a 0.704 WHIP, with a K/9 over 10. Harper batted .256.
Give him time. He'll be great soon enough.
3. The Nationals Don't Need Him
I spoke with one fan who, when I told him the Nationals don't need Bryce Harper, said, "Well, the Tigers didn't need a first baseman either."
People, Harper is not Prince Fielder right now. He might be one day, but at 19 years old, Harper in the majors would be streaky, maybe batting .250 and hitting a few home runs. The Nationals have Michael Morse to play left field, who is coming off a breakout year.
Roger Bernadina in center isn't an exciting player, but he's a good fielder who can hit for some power and run well (11 HR, 16 SB in 2010). And Jayson Werth might be over the hill in right field, but considering what they're paying him, they have to keep playing him.
There isn't a gaping hole in the outfield for Harper to step in and fill.
The Nationals are going to be a successful franchise in the near future for one reason, and it's a reason that has many fans in an uproar on occasion: Their front office is deliberate.
It was clear in Stephen Strasburg's rise that the Nationals were not going to rush him. Every start he dominated in the minors, fans called for him in Washington, and the organization still let its plan for him play out. It also took its time getting him back from injury.
The Nationals won't be rushed by the fans, and it will serve them well.
Another example of cool heads prevailing is in the Nationals' handling of the injuries of both Jordan Zimmerman and Strasburg. Zimmerman was having a huge season last year, but the Nationals still stretched his innings and finally shut him down in August, as planned.
5. Media Frenzy
Anyone remember watching the coverage of Stephen Strasburg's first start? Well it would be like that every single day in Washington and it will be when Harper inevitably makes his MLB debut sometime this season.
But remember, the Nationals are still a young team and such a circus is impossible to ignore. If Harper is still the arrogant kid who has shown up thus far, then he could easily throw off the Nationals' clubhouse and for a team that fancies itself a playoff contender, any distraction from within could ruin their chances.