Harper had hopes of making the majors out of spring training but was given the bad news after a game against the Detroit Tigers in which he struck out four times.
Before making a home in Washington, Harper will need to prove his worth at the Triple-A level.
Playing for Triple-A Syracuse will give him the opportunity to showcase his skills at the final stop before the majors. He will attempt to show the Nationals that he is ready to perform at the next level.
Nationals manger Davey Johnson was hopeful that Harper would make the club out of spring training, saying, "I'm looking at the best fit for this team and he's still a part of that...I certainly don't have my 25 picked," according to The Washington Times.
Although his manager felt there was a chance for Harper, he must ultimately prove himself to general manager Mike Rizzo.
Harper played 109 games in the minor leagues last year, 72 games at Single-A Hagerstown and 37 at Double-A Harrisburg. Harper has yet to play a Triple-A game in his career.
He added played another 25 games in the offseason in the Arizona Fall League. In those 134 games, he hit 23 home runs, 30 doubles and stole 30 bases. Harper is likely to be called up before the All-Star break if he can manufacture the same numbers in Syracuse.
Harper is faced with the task of giving the Nationals organization little or no reason to keep him in the minors very long. Each part of his game that he can improve is one less reason for the team to keep his talent suppressed in the minors.
The most important thing on Harper's checklist of things to prove is his ability to play center field. If he plays solid defense, Harper will force the Nationals to make adjustments and add him to the 25-man roster.