Bryce Harper seems like a dream player out of a video game. His numbers are unbelievable and he doesn't look to be stopping anytime soon. After being drafted number one by the Nationals in 2010, Harper has a lot of expectations to live up to as he begins his path to the big leagues. Harper hopes to make the Nationals roster and make his major league debut as soon as he can, and here's ten reasons why he will in 2011.
Harper is just 18-years-old. Harper has had unbelievable stats in high school, junior college, and in the Arizona Fall League this year. Truth is however, he has never faced a major league pitcher. Harper needs to be exposed to this change and adjust his approach at the plate in order to be successful. He has proven that he will blow up the minor league pitching and putting off this exposure is just hurting Harper rather than making him better.
The Nationals have one of the best mentors in the majors in Ivan Rodriguez. The 39-year-old catcher not only has been through the system and knows what it's like, but he is also a great leader on and off the field. Pudge will offer Harper guidance and help him adjust to the Major League atmosphere more quickly and allow him to focus more on the field than off the field. If the Nationals wait too much longer, Rodriguez may retire and lose this great leadership opportunity for Harper.
When the Nationals drafted Harper, they drafted him as a right fielder. Since then, they signed free agent Jayson Werth to fill the right field spot. Nyjer Morgan is going to stay in center, which leaves Roger Bernadina in left field. Bernadina is by no means comparable to Bryce Harper. Harper has played nearly every position in his lifetime and should have no issues adjusting to left field. If Harper has a strong Spring Training, Bernadina needs to watch his back because Harper could easily take his spot in the starting lineup.
Harper has one of the best arms in baseball. In high school, at the age of 16, Harper was clocked pitching at 96 MPH and hit 90 throwing from the plate to second base as a catcher. There is no denying that he has an incredibly strong arm that could lead to a deadly combination with Werth to prevent teams from taking that extra base that they have been able to do in the past. With less people in scoring position and fewer runners trying to tag and score from third, the Nats could potentially win more one or two run games.
When Harper signed with the Nationals this past summer, he signed a true major league contract. His contract is for five years at $9.9 million. If the Nationals thought it was going to take a few years to get Harper ready for the majors, they would not have devoted this much money to a young, fairly untested player. The Nationals want Harper to have an impact with the team sooner rather than later. Seeing as it took Strasburg just 11 starts last season, it should not take Harper much longer with his incredible track record.
Critics have blasted Harper for even considering entering the MLB draft at the age of 17. Many think he is too young, too inexperienced, too dumb, you name it they've thought it. However, Harper is much more mature than people have given him credit for. At his introductory press conference with the Nationals, Harper was poised, calm, and very confident in what he was doing. He has been mentored by other great sluggers such as Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday of the Cardinals. Let's face it, he's learned from the best. Many people have given him advice along the way and he has shown that he is ready mentally to perform at this stage.
Steven Strasburg attracted many fans everywhere the team played last season because fans wanted to see the young phenom pitch. The same will be true for Harper. With this fantasy player coming into the bigs, everyone will want to see him play and have the chance to see one of his towering homeruns they know he can produce every time he steps to the plate. With Strasburg likely out for the entire season, Washington will need to find some way to attract fans to games. Harper is the best option they have to increase ticket sales and revenue.
Harper playing in the majors is good for the MLB in general. Not only will it attract fans for Washington, but for other teams as well. There will be more fans tuning in to watch televised games as well. Fans want to see a young player prove himself. Harper has attracted so many stories already and he hasn't even stepped foot on a field wearing a major league jersey yet. When he makes his debut, there will be a huge increase in fan interest for the game in general. Not only will it attract fans, but he could potentially pave the way for other young prospects to make the jump to the majors early if they are ready. No matter how you look at it, Bryce Harper is good for baseball.
So back to the Nationals, the team giving him this opportunity. Washington has only two true left handed bats in their projected starting lineup for 2011. In today's age of baseball, a balanced lineup is the key to success. Teams can prey on Washington's lineup with right handed pitching. Harper gives Washington another left handed bat, and a lot more power in the lineup. Adam Dunn, Washington's left handed power source last season, is gone. Harper could be the key replacement for Dunn in the lineup. Harper has plenty of power and can also hit for average, which is huge for any offense. Washington needs his bat to balance out and lead their offense.
OK, so let's face the facts. Harper is ready for the the show. In the Arizona Fall League this year, Harper hit .343 with six extra base hits, a homerun, and seven RBIs in just nine games. If Harper keeps up this pace in Spring Training, he could possibly make the opening day roster. It is a longshot, but do not count it out. Most likely Harper will start out in the minors, but expect him to be called up around the same time Strasburg was last season if he performs the way he has in the past.