As much as we've anticipated Bryce Harper getting called up to the majors, we apparently weren't as excited as Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo. Whatever plan he had just got tossed out the window in a desperate hope to inject some offense into an increasingly feeble Nats lineup.
Yes, left field is a disaster for the Nats right now. If you had Xavier Nady, Mark DeRosa and Roger Bernadina in your fantasy baseball outfield, you'd stop playing fantasy baseball. The Nats had to do something, especially when Mike Morse's return is anything but certain.
The Nats hold first place in the NL East by a slim one-game margin over the Atlanta Braves, and Ryan Zimmerman going to the disabled list leaves them with virtually no offense other than Adam LaRoche. But is calling Harper up to the majors when he's struggling in the minors really the right move to make at this time?
This is a stunningly premature decision by Rizzo and the Nationals, one that could blow up in their faces and set back the future of their franchise.
Here are five reasons why breaking the emergency glass on Harper is a crazy move.
Even the GM doesn't think it's a good idea
Calling up the team's No. 1 prospect should be a move made with confidence, not out of desperation. Yet the Nationals aren't putting Harper in a position to succeed. They're crossing their fingers and hoping. Even Rizzo doesn't seem to think this is the right move.
“Suffice it to say, this isn't the coming out party for Bryce that we had in mind,” Rizzo told reporters. “This isn't the optimal situation developmentally for Bryce.”
How about that for a vote of confidence?
Rizzo went on to admit that this decision basically blows up the plan they had mapped out for Harper. He knows Harper isn't ready for the majors, yet he's calling him up anyway.
That's not a plan for success. That's a Hail Mary. Perhaps Harper is the kind of exceptional talent that a typical plan doesn't apply to. But his minor league performance hasn't demonstrated that thus far.
He's already been rushed
Assigning Harper to Triple-A to begin the season was already rushing his development. He hadn't exactly conquered Double-A last season.
In 147 plate appearances with Double-A Harrisburg, Harper hit .256/.329/.395 with three home runs and 12 RBI. Those aren't eye-popping numbers. The slugging percentage, especially, for a player considered a power hitter was a big concern.
Had Harper shown he could handle Double-A pitching and was making the proper adjustments in his game, maybe the Nats could've promoted him to the majors from there. But to jump him two levels when he was struggling could overwhelm his development as a hitter.
Rizzo should dial up Detroit Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski and ask him about how he handled Cameron Maybin in 2007. Much like the Nats, the Tigers were desperate for left field production when they promoted their top prospect.
But that was in mid-August, when Detroit was in a pennant race. And Maybin was destroying Double-A pitching. Taking a chance then made far more sense.
However, Maybin wasn't ready for the majors and was hardly a factor for the Tigers down the stretch. His development was tossed out the window, and five years later he is still trying to establish a foothold in the big leagues.
It's a temporary move
Rizzo apparently felt better about making this decision after watching Harper's last three games with Triple-A Syracuse.
Yes, Harper hit 3-for-8, showing that maybe he was starting to figure things out. So why mess with that and risk a setback? Rizzo said they're hoping to catch Harper while he's hot, hoping he can continue his streak of success in the majors.
But why potentially cut that progress off at the knees for what could be just over a week in the majors (if Zimmerman's shoulder recovers by May 6, when he's eligible to return from the DL)?
Also, is three games really enough of a sample to make that kind of judgment? If we were discussing any other minor league prospect, one who hasn't generated the hype, excitement and anticipation that Harper has, wouldn't we be talking about what a hasty, desperate decision this is?
Looking for power will create bad habits
Rizzo said one of the reasons Harper was being promoted is because they need some more power in the lineup, especially from left field. Harper should provide more than the one home run and .125 slugging percentage they were getting from that position.
But Harper was already trying too hard to hit home runs, which is why he hasn't hit very well in the minors. Now you're telling him to swing away against major league pitching because the lineup needs some more pop.
Yes, something is better than the nothing they were getting. But encouraging Harper to swing out of his shoes when he needs to take a more patient approach at the plate is going to cement the bad habits he's been developing.
Someone else is more ready
In his post on Harper's promotion, Steven Goldman acknowledged Triple-A outfielder Tyler Moore as another option but cited his poor batting average and strike zone judgment as reasons he should be dismissed as a possibility for the Nationals.
But if the Nats are looking for power, Moore has it. And he has that power right now, rather than trying to find it, as Harper still is. Over the past two seasons, Moore had 62 home runs, and he already has six this season.
No, Moore isn't the future star that Harper is. He doesn't have the same upside. But if he fails, the Nationals haven't made the same investment in him that they've made in Harper.
At this moment, Moore appears to be a more finished product, and he's already swinging the power bat that the Nats are looking for.
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