Are you people serious?
I picked through the Internet sports news this morning and it appears there are people who think it's necessary to defend Bryce Harper after his two-strikeout performance yesterday in his first spring training game.
Some of these people actually get paid to analyze such things.
"Does his performance prove he can't hit the big-league curveball?"
This kid is 18 years old.
He is in his first spring training camp and he's getting his first look at big-league pitching. This is not Instructional League against other recent draftees. This is not the Arizona Fall League, where you face minor-league prospects—he's facing major-leaguers.
Harper has been exceptional at every level he's ever played and he'll probably be exceptional this year at his assigned level, but it isn't going to be the major leagues. He'll start out in A-ball.
Sure, I've written previously that he'll be in the big leagues in 2011, but that's only talking about being called up when the rosters expand in September—and even that's not a given.
It's impossible in the Internet age, but what would be best for Harper would be to get assigned to minor league camp and begin his career away from the limelight.
The difference between baseball and other sports is that most of the kids drafted go to the minor leagues and develop as players and people and learn to handle all facets of becoming big league baseball players.
It's not just learning to hit a curveball; it's also learning how to live out of a suitcase for most of the year.
If an athlete is taken first in the NFL draft, he's expected to play right away or he's considered a bust. In the MLB, especially out of high school, a prospect is considered a phenom if he makes it to the big leagues with only a couple years of development.
Harper will be in the position soon enough that we can judge his ability based on present performance.
It's too early for that now.
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