No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper made his professional debut for the Washington Nationals on Monday against the New York Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Considered the best hitting prospect in all of baseball, Harper came into the game in the fifth inning as a pinch runner for Matt Stairs. He struck out on three straight pitches in the seventh inning and then fanned on four pitches in the ninth.
Since Stairs was the designated hitter, Harper—with thick black eye paint and what will soon be a household No. 34 jersey—did not appear in the field.
The 18-year-old phenom, who helped the Scottsdale Scorpions to the Arizona Fall League Championship in the winter, finished 0-for-2.
In his first pro at-bat, Harper slapped Taylor Tankersley’s 86 MPH fastball foul the other way and then swung over a pair of sliders that ran away from the left-hander and dropped below his knees.
In his second plate appearance he then took a 76 MPH changeup from Ryota Igarashi and laid off a fastball up and away. Harper then took a curveball for strike two and struck out on a low sinker.
MLB.com reporter Bill Ladson previously reported that Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo said Harper would most likely start the season in the minors.
The most obvious place for him to start would be with the Hagerstown Suns in the Sally League, although it’s possible that he could begin the season with Double-A Potomac, the reigning Carolina League champions.
The left-hander out of the College of Southern Nevada hit .319 in the instructional league and then batted .343 with 12 hits in 35 at-bats over nine AFL games.
This once-in-a-generation stud plated seven runs, homered against Peoria and struck out 11 times for Scottsdale despite playing just twice a week. He also had an RBI single in the finals against the Javelinas.