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Harper will play on AFL taxi squad

Oct 13, 2010, 6:06 PM EDT

Read the updated story with quotes from Mike Rizzo on CSNwashington.com

Bryce Harper will celebrate his 18th birthday Saturday at home in Las Vegas. Then he’ll make the short trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., and immediately start facing the toughest competition of his brief baseball career.

The Washington Nationals have added the No. 1 draft pick to their roster of players participating in the Arizona Fall League, an elite “finishing school” generally reserved for top prospects who have already played at the Class AA or Class AAA level, a club official confirmed this afternoon.

Harper, of course, has yet to play at any official minor-league level, aside from about three weeks in Viera, Fla., at the instructional league. But Nationals officials believe the catcher-turned-outfielder needs to get as much playing experience as he can this offseason, so they’re sending him to Arizona to serve as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions’ “taxi squad.”

AFL teams play six games per week, but taxi squad members are only allowed to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Thus, Harper’s playing time will be limited. Club officials, though, believe the experience will be worth it, both on the field facing pitchers on the verge of reaching the big leagues and in the clubhouse socializing alongside teammates who are anywhere from four to eight years older than him.

  1. markfd - Oct 13, 2010 at 6:45 PM

    Mark,I cannot agree more with the pros of sending Harper to the AFL, plus that gives an outfield a rest on the roster two days a week.

  2. Steve M. - Oct 13, 2010 at 7:35 PM

    Every opposing pitcher on Wednesdays and Saturdays will be looking forward to facing "The Kid". I hope Bryce Harper gains great experience in this part of his journey!

  3. Tcostant - Oct 13, 2010 at 8:54 PM

    Is it me or is Rizzo talking out of both sides of his month? At one point, he says that Harper will start in Single A ball, yet then he says he will play where his ability says he belong.Make up your mind.And sign Dunn too!

  4. Richard - Oct 13, 2010 at 9:24 PM

    I'm not sure I fuly understand the "two sides of the mouth" comment, but there's high A ball and low A ball, so Harper's ability and readiness should dictate which it is. Apparently he's going to start in A ball somewhere. Interestingly, the Nats helped local people buy the Suns and Harper would help them get off to a good start in 2011.And, yeah, sign Dunn!

  5. sjm105 - Oct 13, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    I see absolutely nothing wrong with this move. It keeps him around older players and keeps his mind on the game. I have read that he is a real student and even though he will only be playing twice a week, he can still learn a lot from sitting near a coach or an older player. If, he handles the pitching here, I still think he should start in A ball and move up as he warrants it. No need to rush him but if he is the real deal (and I think he is) then there is no reason he can't be a Sept. call up this next year. Mark, what do you think the time-line will be with Dunn? Does it hurt or help us that he will not get us two draft pick if he declines arbitration?thanks

  6. Mark Zuckerman - Oct 13, 2010 at 10:12 PM

    sjm105: I wouldn't expect anything to happen with Dunn until after the World Series. He can start talking to other teams five days after the conclusion of the series, and at this point, I fully expect him to see what's out there before making any final decision. I think this will drag on for a while.

  7. Anonymous - Oct 14, 2010 at 12:05 AM

    "Is it me or is Rizzo talking out of both sides of his month? At one point, he says that Harper will start in Single A ball, yet then he says he will play where his ability says he belong."Its you @Tcostant. Rizzo has always said that players have to prove they have mastered a certain level before moving. IN THIS CASE he appeased both the player and the MLB organizers of the AFL by putting soon-to-be 18 year old Harper on the Taxi squad. That means he can only play Wed. and Sunday. PLUS he is sending everyone to help with his development. So, on those days he can't play he will be working, learning, trying to make up for time lost waiting for Boras to play his last minute shenanigans. So, he will be practicing with the players there plus a plethora of coaches. Strasburg started in Harrisburg AA, but Strasburg proved he was ready for that level both in this league and in ST 2010. Storen started in A ball the year before. They both had to prove to Rizzo and staff that they had mastered each level before moving on. So far soo good. Jason Heyward followed a similar progression in Atlanta.

  8. Anonymous - Oct 14, 2010 at 12:07 AM

    That's a 180 reversal from what the FO said yesterday. It begs the question–who is calling the shots?

  9. JaneB - Oct 14, 2010 at 2:14 AM

    Well, whomever is calling the shots: Thanks for sending The Kid to AZ.And sign Adam Dunn.

  10. Big Cat - Oct 14, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    Rizzo implied that Harper really progressed in the Instructional League, particularly during the last week. NatsJack….you see any of this?

  11. NatsJack in Florida - Oct 14, 2010 at 11:42 AM

    Sure did. His developement was noticeable. He still had trouble with the breaking ball. In the early games, he was having trouble turning on fastballs and found himself behind in counts. But once he figured he could go "oppobopo" he hit to the opposite field with power. His progression was significant.By playing on Wednesdays and Sundays, he can continue his progression. It would be hard to get discouraged by only playing twice a week if has any problems but an occaisional hit a week would keep him working.I got to see him each Friday and Saturday for three weeks and saw a triple the first week, a homerun each of the following weeks and a couple of singles each of the last two weeks.

  12. Doc - Oct 14, 2010 at 1:22 PM

    Harper is getting some opportunities in the Arizona Fall League that he wouldn't otherwise have, but restricting him to 2x/wk seems like he's being penalized, not reinforced. Its an AFL rule that has little to do with a player's development. Leaving it up to the manager and coaches to put him in the lineup as they see fit is more real baseball. If they have to restrict his participation, because of AFL numbers, why not limit him to a specified number of PAs. I'm thinking that one of the other players will be injured and Harper will be the first in line to replace him.

  13. JD - Oct 14, 2010 at 1:24 PM

    Mark, I think that logically Harper will play in Hagerstown in 2011 and he likely won't move up unless he is totally dominant. If he's merely succsesful but not dominant he may be moved up to Potomac for a month at the end of the year; no need to rush him.

  14. Harper_ROY_2012 - Oct 14, 2010 at 1:51 PM

    Well, everyone launched a Strasburger when he arrived in DC, do you all have any thoughts about what " Bryce's Oppoboppo" burger might have on it!?

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