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Center of attention in Viera

Feb 2, 2011, 4:07 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Bryce Harper might be the most-watched player in Nationals camp this spring.

The home clubhouse at Space Coast Stadium this spring will house a 31-year-old right fielder who owns the 14th-largest contract in baseball history. It will house a two-time Silver Slugger who is arguably the best third baseman in the game. It will house perhaps the greatest catcher of all-time, inching ever closer to 3,000 career hits. And it will house a phenom right-hander whose every move last season became national news.

Yet the player who likely will draw more attention than any of them, or anyone else in a Nationals uniform, will be an 18-year-old with no chance of making the Opening Day roster or even reaching the major leagues in 2011.

Bryce Harper is about to become the center of attention at spring training, a teenager appearing in big-league camp despite having yet to play a regular-season game in the minor leagues.

Read about the Nats’ spring plans for Harper on CSNwashington.com.

  1. Steve M. - Feb 2, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Mark said…an 18-year-old with no chance of making the Opening Day roster or even reaching the major leagues in 2011.No chance? See, I don't think you give 0% chance to any player of being promoted. If he crushes through A ball and does the same in AA then he probably deserves to get a September callup like Zim did in 2005.

  2. JD - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:00 PM

    Steve M. Zim was a 21 yr old college graduate; the level of NCAA div. 1 is roughly equivalent to AA ball. Harper had 1 year of JUCO it's not an apples to apples comparison. The Nats will be doing themselves and Harper a disservice if they rush him. I happen to think that if he struggles some at each level before finally graduating it will do him a world of good; there is quite a leap from the minors to the majors; pitchers will zero in on your one or two areas of weakness and pound it until you prove you can handle it; I would prefer to see success when he finally comes up rather than a need to send him back for more seasoning.

  3. Steve M. - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:11 PM

    JD – I don't disagree at all but Zim had 2 months of Minor League life and wasn't as advanced as Bryce Harper at the same age. My point is don't give the guy 0% chance. He stated himself that his GOAL was to be a September call-up.Everyone should set goals and strive to achieve them but when someone says "don't bother" you have 0% chance it is not productive.

  4. Doc - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:14 PM

    If club officials "…would be stunned…", by Harper making the club by the end of 2011, maybe it's because they are stunned in general!This kid is 'basebal ready' and could easily accomplish that which he needs to learn, out of ST at the AA level. He's a quick learner, mostly because of his well-practiced baseball instincts. The formality of Harper going lock-step through the different levels of the minors is just that—a formality. Some might see his attitude as 'cocky', in a sport that over-does traditional expectations (except when it comes to letting players use steroids); I, on the other hand, view Harper's disposition as a function of confidence. He was born to play baseball, and that's what he's going to do!

  5. N. Cognito - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:20 PM

    "no chance" should not be taken literally.

  6. Samuel Adams - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    Funny that the poor SOB is a millionaire, will be playing baseball under the Florida sun, and not be able to buy a beer at the end of the day. Bogus. I hope Ryan Zimmerman buys Harper a quart bottle of Colt 45 after practice.

  7. SonnyG10 - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:49 PM

    Bryce's progression through the minors will be dictated by his maturity and his ability on the field. He will not be unduely held back.

  8. Theophilus - Feb 2, 2011 at 5:59 PM

    The Nats have consistently under-sold Harper, e.g., going from "not going to play in the AFL, sending him home for Mom's cooking" to scratching out a way to get him on the AFL roster. (Reasonable to not inflate either public expectations or player ego.) So, saying he's going to spend an entire season at Class A, whether Hagerstown or Potomac, is not something to be taken that seriously.He may — for reasons of control in future years — not show up in DC this Fall (I'm not sure what a limited exposure in September would do to his arbitration/FA schedule — and it would be nice if Mark could clarify this). However, I would make a substantial bet he will end up the year at Harrisburg — at least. Realistically, he can only make so much progress at the Class A level. His problem is overswinging; he's not going to fix that facing wild-throwing lower minor-leaguers. To learn better plate discipline he needs to face better, e.g., at least AA, pitchers. Prediction: Harper will torch Sally League pitching — although striking out 1/3 of his at bats. If he connects, he's gonna run a long way. In June, he moves up to Potomac; he will hit for a lower but still very respectable average and strike out less. By August, he will be in Harrisburg, where we (who will be driving up US-15 from northern Virginia) will see exactly how far from the majors he really is.

  9. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Harper could buy a brewery, but he can't buy a beer. He could buy a bar, but he can't buy a drink. It's not his millions or his age that makes that so, it's because he's a Mormon. They don't drink, smoke or do caffeine. What nasty habit will he have to give up in a year or so for Kilgore to write a page one story about? Polygamy?

  10. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:05 PM

    Eye makeup?

  11. Theophilus - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    Kilgore couldn't find a front-page story if Manny Ramirez offered him a lap dance.

  12. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:23 PM

    You laugh, but Kilgore's story about Strasburg quitting the chaw was on page A1 of the Post fishwrap edition. Likewise Sheinin's story about NFL players' hair. But that says a lot more about the Post's lack of quality than it does about the quality of their writing, doesn't it?

  13. Les in NC - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:33 PM

    What's the over/under of Harpers BA in the first month of professional baseball in Hagerstown? .375? .350? Either way, I "would be shocked" if he hits below both those marks. IMO, if Bryce says its his goal to make it to the bigs this year, I wouldn't put it past him. And secretly I am hoping he starts at Potomac, because I would be able to see him in April instead of waiting until May w/ Hagerstown.

  14. MM - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Steve M. said…but Zim had 2 months of Minor League life and wasn't as advanced as Bryce Harper at the same age.the question is, will he be as advanced as Zim was after 2 months in MiL?

  15. Tcostant - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:54 PM

    Just to keep everyone up to date, I saw this about the Nationals–>http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/02/02/if-healthy-jesus-flores-could-be-trade-bait-for-the-nationals/I think it is more likely that Flores goes to AAA out of the spring and if he hits there (and stays healthy) comes up in July with the Nationals dealing I-Rod. But Flores getting dealt is "out there".

  16. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 6:58 PM

    Funny that the poor SOB is a millionaire, will be playing baseball under the Florida sun, and not be able to buy a beer at the end of the day. Bogus. I hope Ryan Zimmerman buys Harper a quart bottle of Colt 45 after practice.Sorry Sam Adams I know you'd like to put the guy on your bottle but he is a Mormon and all … kind of doubt that will happen …

  17. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:03 PM

    This kid is 'basebal ready' and could easily accomplish that which he needs to learn, out of ST at the AA level. He's a quick learner, mostly because of his well-practiced baseball instincts. Ted Williams a pretty good left-handed right fielder took 3 years in the minors starting at age 17. By 19 he completely demolished what was then considered AA but more like AA/AAA. Then he was brought up. Then at age 22 he was the last player to hit .400. Now, if Harper is that good he will likely do well enough to get to Potomac .. and then Harrisburg by the end of the year. The next year (September call up or not) he completely demolishes AA (as Heyward did) and then moves to AAA before the final call-up. That's the plan Stan.

  18. Karnack the Magician - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:06 PM

    I believe Harper will struggle a bit with wild young pitchers and hit only something like .310 with 8 homers the first half at Hagerstown, skip Potomac, and finish the season at Harrisburg where he'll hit about .290 with 10 homers.

  19. Kenz aFan - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:07 PM

    Les in NCBy not being able to see Harper until May if he was in Hagerstown, do you mean in practices and pre-season activities? I ask, because Hagerstown's home season starts a week after Potomac's, which starts on April 8th against Lynchburg. The Suns regular season actually starts the day before the PNats, albeit on the road.

  20. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    MLB Trade Rumors posted that Justin Maxwell has been traded to the Yankees, citing Maxwell's agency, CAA Sports. I wonder what Rizzo got out of Cashman. Phil Hughes perhaps? Haha.

  21. MGG - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I think Harper will finish the year in AAA, after stomping both A/AA. BUT I don't see him coming up to the big league club until June of next year simply because of the arbitration clock.Now not to get off topic but can anyone tell me when single game tickets go on sale? I looked all over their site plus google and I can't find the answer.

  22. Theophilus - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:16 PM

    The story about Flores is the gun powder residue from a Ladson sneeze. I'd really hate it (and be surprised) if it happens. You can never have too many catchers. Witness the last two years (Jamie Burke and Carlos Maldonado). Hold onto Flores until (A) he demonstrates enough value to net something good in return; (B) Rodriguez gets moved at the deadline (which I sorta do expect), or (C) Norris grades out well in Harrisburg.

  23. N. Cognito - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:30 PM

    Prediction: Harper will struggle his first week or two at Hagerstown and half the posters here will throw themselves off tall buildings.Four weeks later, he'll be hitting .400 at Hagerstown, with 10 homeruns, and those that survived the fall will be lining up to drive him to Cooperstown.

  24. NatsJack in Florida - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    From the Yankees, Adam Olbrychowski, a 6'3", 205 lb. right hander drafted in the 5th round in 2007 from Malibu California. maybe he and Balester can get into a porn mustache contest.

  25. Anonymous - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:37 PM

    MGG said… "Now not to get off topic but can anyone tell me when single game tickets go on sale? I looked all over their site plus google and I can't find the answer."Word I got is STH pre-sale about Mar 1. Others following. Does seem a little late.

  26. Sunderland - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    MGG, no date set for single game sales.A September call up will not start the arbitration clock.JMax traded to the Yankees.N.Cognito, nice post, accurate and funny all at once.

  27. Sunderland - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:40 PM

    FYI, last year, single games sales started on 2/18.

  28. N. Cognito - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:42 PM

    NatsJack in Florida said… "From the Yankees, Adam Olbrychowski…"Not a good trade – can't pronounce it or spell it.

  29. N. Cognito - Feb 2, 2011 at 7:49 PM

    Olbydqfignr is a relief pitcher. Stats don't look too bad, but progress through minors has been slow.

  30. Les in NC - Feb 2, 2011 at 8:32 PM

    Kenz,As a resident of NC, I generally have to wait for the Nationals' minor league teams to come to me before I get to see them. Usually I catch a few games in Winston-Salem and Hickory. This year, I plan on expanding my games territory to include Greensboro and Kannapolis with an outside chance for Kinston and Ashville. It all depends on where Harper is playing. If He starts at Hagerstown, the nearest (and earliest) the Suns get to me would be in Greensboro in late May. If he starts at Potomac, then I might can swing a trip to Salem, VA to see a game against the Red Sox.

  31. Theophilus - Feb 2, 2011 at 8:40 PM

    Re: Adam O: "Named the Clark Griffith Collegiate League's top pro prospect by Baseball America" in 2006. So — depending on what the CG Collegiate League is — he must have been a prospect at some point in time.

  32. Bryce H - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    If I'm with Potomac by summer, I'm making a day trip to Surf City during the Kinston series June 26-28. Beer's on me.

  33. Tcostant - Feb 2, 2011 at 9:15 PM

    MGG said… Now not to get off topic but can anyone tell me when single game tickets go on sale? I looked all over their site plus google and I can't find the answer. A: They have not announce a date yet, but based on the past it around that first Saturday in March, so March 5th would be a good guess.

  34. Anonymous - Feb 3, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    Unfortunately this is a MOTO story. Coverage of Harper in Viera will be 10 times what it was for Strasburg!* Master of the Obvious

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