Skip to content

Should Bryce Harper play in AFL?

Sep 17, 2010, 2:42 PM EST

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bryce Harper, who turns 18 next month, may play in the Arizona Fall League.

Forty-six Nationals prospects have convened in Viera, Fla., and today will begin workouts for the Florida instructional league. Only one of them will be attracting significant media attention: Bryce Harper.

Several media outlets will be present today for Harper's first workout as a professional, just as several media outlets were present one year ago for Stephen Strasburg's first workout (including one represented by yours truly). I won't be in Viera today, but I do have some spies on the ground who hopefully will share some details of the proceedings.

Unlike Strasburg, Harper seems to relish the spotlight, so my guess is he won't have any trouble dealing with all the attention. Ultimately, though, his priorities over the next month are to begin experiencing life as a professional ballplayer, learn a new position (right field, not catcher) and show the first glimpses of what he can accomplish on a baseball field.

Somewhere along the way, Mike Rizzo has an important decision to make: Should Harper move from the instructional league to play in the Arizona Fall League?

Typically, there would be no debate. Of course you wouldn't send a kid who will still be 17 years old when the league begins play on OctoberRead more »

  1. Brian - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:06 PM

    I would not send him to the AFL. Let him get his feet wet in the Instructionals and then make the call on whether he's ready for Hagerstown in 2011. There aren't many (if any) Sally League guys who finished 2010 there headed to the AFL, so I wouldn't rush him

  2. sjm105 - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:07 PM

    you have to see how he adjusts to the Instructional League and then make your decision. To me a big part will be his adjustment to the speed of the game and also will he stop with the foolishness in the batters box before he hits. I understand the war paint is off limits but this 17 year old needs to grow up quickly if he is going to be in the majors by 2011 (which I would love to see)go nats

  3. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:08 PM

    would be a terrible idea to send him to the AFL this year. Jim Bowden probably would have done it but Rizzo is smarter than that.

  4. C.J. Frost - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:12 PM

    Harper can compete and possible thrive in the AFL. Sending him would also be in the interests of baseball, as fans of other sports are curious as to what the #1 draft pick can do. Look at it like a coming out party, Harper gets presented to the world as a pro with more media focus and less risk than starting him off in high-A or AA next year.He is 17 but doesn't hit like 17, send him.

  5. jcj5y - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:13 PM

    Kevin Goldstein, who isn't a fan of Harper's makeup, suggested that Harper going to the AFL and failing might actually be a good thing for him–perhaps thinking that he needs a little humility. The Nats would never send Harper to Arizona with that as their underlying philosophy, but it's an interesting take.

  6. Pilchard - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    All depends on how Harper looks in the Instructional League. Not concerned about his age or his ability to compete in the AFL, but Harper has not played baseball at any level since May. Would be hard for any player regardless of age or ability to compete against players that have been playing all Summer. If Harper quickly finds his groove in the IL, I could see the Nats sending him to Arizona.

  7. Sue Dinem - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:18 PM

    No. Don't confuse age with talent. The 22+ year-olds in the AFL are much more talented than the 21+ year-olds at a junior college.

  8. Steve M. - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:20 PM

    sjm105 – Your insight is excellent again! If he cruises through the instructional league at the top of the group then he has earned his invite.If not, he will be there next year. There isn't a rush as he will get some reps in Spring Training 2011 against real Major Leaguers.

  9. erocks33 - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    "Last year's AFL rosters included Strasburg, Buster Posey, Starlin Castro, Ike Davis, Jose Tabata and Mike Leake, all impact rookies in the majors this season"So what? Last year's AFL rosters included pitchers like Josh Butler, Scot Drucker, Randor Bierd and Aaron Crow. They also included fellow outfielders Matt Angle, Adam Loewen and Rene Tosoni. None of whom tore up the minors this season.The AFL is filled with top prospects, but it's also filled with players on the cusp of getting cut from their teams as they have one chance left to prove they belong or else they get exposed to the minor league rule 5 draft.I say see how Harper does during the instructional league. If he adjusts well, on the field and off, then let him have a few hacks in the AFL.

  10. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 3:49 PM

    Did Maxwell ever get sent to the AFL? Seems like he should have given all the opportunities he keeps getting with this organization?

  11. Kevin Rusch, Section406 - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:09 PM

    I agree with SJM105, et al. He's a special case – he has dominated every level he's seen so far. If he hits 400 in the GCL, it'd be stupid not to send him to the AFL. Also, it'd be good to see he handles an 0-for-20 streak. He hasn't had one yet. Besides, he's not played a game in 4 months. Let's get him back out there.

  12. DCJohn - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:11 PM

    Absolutely send him. MLB would love. It would give us something to watch during the fall. I can wait to see the kid play.

  13. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:41 PM

    Send him, either way (success or failure) it will be a learning experience for him and give him a better idea of what he needs to do to take the next step. I'm no worried about his confidence being shattered if he doesn't do well. I want to see how he responds to that should it take that turn. If his work habits are as good as they seem it won't be a problem. Onward and upward. JTinSC

  14. natsfan1a - Sep 17, 2010 at 4:59 PM

    Soitenly! (Actually, I have no idea. I just wanted to say that. :-))

  15. N. Cognito - Sep 17, 2010 at 5:10 PM

    If he's deemed ready…why not?If he's ready and doesn't go…so what?

  16. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 5:14 PM be worthwhile to add these to the right-hand gutter since they are also Ben Goessling?

  17. Jimmy - Sep 17, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    It depends if he is hitting over .350 and has 10 homers and 5 out field assists then tell the kid to get them. Seriously, Bryce Harper will be in the majors within 1 and 1/2 years! I ask my friends, at college, who are big baseball fans this question. If Bryce Harper is hitting 10 to 15 homers in spring training, has avg. of <.320, and has 30 to 40 RBI then you do immediately send him to the majors?

  18. Steve M. - Sep 17, 2010 at 5:43 PM

    For all those wondering the possibility of a Colby Rasmus trade with the Cardinals:

  19. Doc - Sep 17, 2010 at 5:56 PM

    If Harper does well in the Instructional League, why not give him a chance in AFL?? Age is not main variable; ability is.Jr. and A-Rod were playing in the minors at 18-19. This kid may very well be in their hitting league. If he does well in the AFL, then he probably starts in AA next year.

  20. Steve M. - Sep 17, 2010 at 6:06 PM

    How often does Mike Rizzo mention his mancrush from Arizona Brandon Webb. Seems most every time he talks about Drafts, Arizona, SEC, etc. a Brandon Webb mention comes up. Mark Zuckerman should ask him straight up about Brandon Webb and Free Agency.——————————Mike Rizzo: Well, we always liked Tyler, from the time we drafted him (in 2008). He was a philosophical type of draft, where he had great success at a major college (Mississippi State) in a major conference. Those are the type of guys that we take later on in the draft. In my career, I've had success taking players from the SEC in later rounds, with your Brandon Webbs and your Dan Ugglas.

  21. Tcostant - Sep 17, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    I like the idea of letting his play in the Florida Instructional League dictate if he ends up in Arizonia. Why not put a little presure on the kid, tell him if he hits .320 in the FIL then he goes to Arizonia, if he doesn't than. Lets seem him get they with some kind of goal and I bet he'll meet that goal!

  22. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    I think the main risk with Harper becoming a superstar is his maturity, rather than talent. Is he gonna be LeBron James or Kwame Brown? So I don't think the decision is only based on how he performs in instructionals. Obviously, if he struggles there, he doesn't go to the AFL. But if he thrives, then they still need to gauge his maturity level. I'd probably wait.

  23. N. Cognito - Sep 17, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    Steve M. said… "Mark Zuckerman should ask him straight up about Brandon Webb and Free Agency."That would be tampering. Rizzo knows it and Zuckerman knows Rizzo won't answer, so there's no use in asking.Even should Webb become a free agent, Rizzo won't answer because the Nats keep all negotiations private.

  24. Avar - Sep 17, 2010 at 7:44 PM

    I don't think him playing or not playing is that big a deal actually. If he doesn't play AFL, he starts in Hagerstown and could easily be in Harrisburg by end of the summer and Bigs in '12. No shame in not going to AFL when you're 17 and have played a minor league game.If he does play AFL and stinks, nothing in that plan changes. From what I've read, I can't imagine his confidence will be real damaged if he can't hold his own against 22 year old AA and AAA grown men when he's 17.If he plays AFL and does well, then maybe he starts in Potomac and goes to Harrisburg mid-summer.If he plays in the AFL and dominates, do you go any faster? I think he still couldn't start at Harrisburg, it's too much. Potomac seems like a good ceiling.But, I just think the importance of the decision is a little overrated.

  25. Harper_ROY_2012 - Sep 17, 2010 at 8:01 PM

    @ DOC – AMEN! Bryce is a man among boys already, he has been playing against older competition in junior college and he dominated them. The AFL is the proper venue for the Nats to gauge at what level to start him next season, you will not get that gauge in the FIL. I predict he will start 2011 at AA and will see significant playing time with the big club during Spring Training 2011.Also, Mark Z, Bryce has played the OF before so it is not a complete position conversion for him.

  26. Anonymous - Sep 17, 2010 at 11:32 PM

    Hold on now, before we crown Harper as King of anything, lets see how he does in Instruct whats the rush. His first day was not that impressive,he was in a group that included Ramirez,Oduber and Hood. Ramirez hit so many out of the park it was ridiculous, Just saying!!

  27. Anonymous - Sep 18, 2010 at 1:36 AM

    Anon 732 -That is the last time Ramirez and Harper will appear within one sentence of each other in their careers!

  28. Josh - Sep 18, 2010 at 2:35 AM

    I don't know if Harper is going to have a .300+ batting average anyway, he struck out a lot in high school/college. He has such high power potential though that it hardly matters.

  29. Big Cat - Sep 18, 2010 at 11:45 AM

    The main thing they want to see is how he handles the breaking balls from pro pitching, especially lefthanded pitching. Those nasty sliders from lefties send kids home calling for their mommies. I think this kid is gonna struggle a little at first and then come on strong. Gonna be fun to watch





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

*All times Eastern. You can also listen to the station on 94.3 FM, 92.7 FM and online at Click here for past audio clips.

Follow us on Twitter