Bryce Harper: The Washington Nationals Must Keep Him at Catcher

Zack LessnerCorrespondent IIAugust 31, 2010

WASHINGTON - AUGUST 26:  Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals takes batting practice at Nationals Park on August 26, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

The Washington Nationals need Bryce Harper to continue to play the position that he has grown to know so well: catcher.


Yes, he could get injured. Yes, it could negatively affect his hitting. Yes, it could make him wear down too early.


There are many reasons that people want Nationals phenom prospect Bryce Harper to abandon his natural position of catcher and move to the outfield.


But the positives outweigh the negatives in the debate of which position Harper should play. And it's not even close.


You may be wondering what advantage the Nationals will have by keeping Harper at the 2 position. And it doesn't seem that big at first.


The Nationals need to keep Harper at catcher because he will be one of the only elite players at that position.


People may say that it doesn't matter which position he plays as long as he plays like a once in a generation hitter. But it does.


If the 17 year old really wants to help his team and be remembered forever, then catcher is the position for him.


The catcher position has never been strong offensivly in baseball. Most catchers that play today are just there to handle the pitchers and provide defense.


Today, there are only a handful of catchers that can really help their team on the other side of the ball. Joe Mauer, Victor Martinez, Brian McCann, Jorge Posada, Mike Napoli, and Buster Posey are a few. And while these catchers are considered the elite of their class, when compared to other position players, they really aren't that good.


Take Brian McCann for example. He is considered a top five hitting catcher in the league. He has a very respectable .281 average with 19 home runs.  But would you expect that Orioles outfielder Luke Scott, is having just as good of a season or better, with a .286 average and 25 home runs?


And would you expect that Yankees' future Hall of Fame catcher Jorge Posada who has 16 homeruns and a .261 batting average is having a season very similar to Nationals outfielder Josh Willingham who has 16 home runs and a .268 batting average?


A bunch of mediocre position players are having just as good offensive seasons as the elite catchers. This is why the key to having a successful team starts at whom their backstop is.


Out of the six catchers named above, three of them are on teams that are on pace to make of the playoffs, and two of them have winning records and are in the thick of the playoff hunt.


Having a catcher who can handle himself behind the plate gives his team that much more of an advantage over its competitors. While other teams are forced to use up a spot in the order to a player who can't hit, teams with good catchers don't have to sacrifice this.


This brings the Bryce Harper debate back up.


Do the Nationals really want to use up an outfield spot to a player who can hit, and leave a gaping hole at catcher? Even if they use up that outfield spot with an average hitter, that is a lot better than using an average hitting catcher.


Even bad teams have good hitting outfielders, but none of them have good catchers. Adam Jones, Andrew McCuttchen, Shin-Soo Choo, Ichiro, and Jusin Upton are some just to name a few, and the catchers on their respective teams are nowhere close to having as good years.


If Bryce Harper needs a break or is tired, the Nationals can do what the Giants do with Buster Posey. They should give Harper a spell every few days by playing him at first base and giving him an occasional day off so that he stays fresh.


Leaving Bryce Harper at catcher would put the Nationals a huge step ahead of their competitors. Having a legendary player behind the plate while other teams have low-average, powerless catchers would give the Nationals the advantage that they so badly need.