Major League Baseball has been awaiting the arrival of Washington Nationals prospect Bryce Harper. Fortunately, the wait is over.
The Washington Post is reporting that the 19-year-old Harper will indeed start the spring training opener in right field.
Does this mean that Harper has a legitimate chance of being on the 25-man roster on Opening Day? The Washington Post article calls it a "longshot," but I would not be so sure.
Harper is 19 years old. However, he is definitely not a normal 19-year-old. He advanced farther in his first professional season than most other high school prospects. He legitimately possesses all five tools, and had a highly successful year in the minor leagues. Overall, he hit .297 with 17 home runs, 58 RBI and 26 stolen bases between Single-A and Double-A. Players like Harper do not come along every day.
Also, 19-year-old players entering Major League Baseball are rare, but there have been quite a few of them. For example, Ken Griffey Jr., Felix Hernandez, Andruw Jones, Justin Upton and Madison Bumgarner all made their debuts at 19.
Harper should definitely be given a chance to prove himself in spring training and not be automatically written off because of his age. If he does not appear ready after approximately a month of spring training games, then the Nationals should send him back to the farm.
However, as evidenced from above, there are 19-year-old players who are able to cut it in Major League Baseball. Harper has such a rare combination of physical talents, that the Nationals need to keep an open mind. Manager Davey Johnson seems to be willing to give him the opportunity, so hopefully the rest of the Nationals management will be willing to take a risk as well.
His spring should be judged on how he performs rather than his age and relative inexperience.
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