Bryce Harper: Can He Stay Up in MLB All Season Long?
It still seems surreal that Bryce Harper made his Major League debut on Saturday night. We all knew that he would be recalled from Triple-A at some point this season—June at the earliest, or so it was thought—but not this early, not without warning, at least.
Normally, when there’s speculation that a highly touted prospect might make his debut, there’s at least some sort of precipitating rumor or event. However, that wasn’t the case on Friday, when news broke in the evening that Harper would get his first big league start on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
The day that has been fantasized about since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16-year-old had finally arrived. And somehow, Harper exceeded all expectations, as he always does.
Prospect Pipeline’s No. 2 overall prospect heading into the season, Harper had the most impressive Major League debut I’ve ever seen by a position prospect. Although I was excited to witness his debut, I admittedly was terrified that it would go poorly—he may draw boo-birds everywhere he goes, but who honestly wants to see the kid fail?
Receiving the start in left field, all of Harper’s tools were showcased in his debut, as he went 1-for-3 with a double and RBI and drove in the Nationals' then-go-ahead run with the sacrifice fly in the top of the ninth.
Harper showed blinding bat speed and power when he tattooed the double to center in his second at-bat, and demonstrated plate discipline well beyond his years. We got a look at the 19-year-old’s wheels on the comebacker to the mound in his first at-bat, and also when he smelled a triple out of the box on his double.
And his arm—wow. Had it not been for Wilson Ramos’ steel hands (and Jerry Hairston’s pesky swat), Harper would have driven in the game-winning run and made a game-saving throw.
What I found most impressive was that he never once looked overmatched. He fouled off several tough pitches while confidently taking offerings just off both sides of the plate. For a 19-year-old making his Major League debut before a sold-out crowd at Dodger Stadium, Bryce Harper sure looked like he belonged.
Before the initial shock could even dissipate from the previous night, Harper was back out there on Sunday afternoon, as he turned in another 1-for-3 performance that included drawing a two-out walk in the ninth inning against Kenley Jansen, as well as a spectacular catch in his first career start in center field.
But unless Bryce Harper absolutely rakes and leaves zero doubt in Mike Rizzo and the rest of the organization’s mind that he’s completely ready, it’s doubtful that he is here to say. While he may be the team’s best short-term option, the phenom still needs further seasoning at Triple-A. That said, I wouldn’t at all mind being wrong about this one.
With Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Morse, and veteran utility man Mark DeRosa all on the disabled list, the Nationals—who are 14-8 and tied with Atlanta for first place in the National League East—needed to replicate their ailing sluggers’ productivity. And, in their eyes, the only player capable of potentially doing so was Harper. The only other in-house options were journeyman infielder Mark Teahen and first base prospect Tyler Moore, who was ultimately recalled on Sunday.
Additionally, the Nationals’ left field options (DeRosa, Xavier Nady and Roger Bernadina) are batting a paltry .111 this season with four extra-base hits and five RBI. Regardless of how much Harper struggles, he still will be more productive than the alternatives. Still, the circumstances surrounding his promotion lead me to believe that he’s not here to stay.
Even if Harper is playing well by the time Morse is finally healthy, there’s no chance that the Nationals will sit a bat with proven 30 home run, .300-plus batting average ability. And assuming Adam LaRoche hasn’t completely cooled off by then, they won’t be able to stash Morse at first and remove his bat from the lineup.
As a temporary move that has a definite end (Morse’s return from the DL), I applaud the Nationals’ aggressiveness with Harper. But there will likely come a point where, despite the masses' demand for more, he should be sent back to Triple-A.
Is Bryce Harper here to stay?
Yes, he’s a generational talent who may ultimately transform the face the of game. However, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s only had 534 plate appearances (and only 229 at Double-A or above) since debuting at Class A Hagerstown last season. No matter how dynamic and spectacular he may one day become, the Nationals need to remain steadfast in their development of Harper.
As I said, there’s nothing that I would enjoy more than for Harper to emerge as an immediate star, but that’s simply not realistic. At 19 years old, he has the potential for a Hall of Fame career.
There’s no need to force it out of him all season.
What is the duplicate article?
Why is this article offensive?
Where is this article plagiarized from?
Why is this article poorly edited?