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Harper impressive but has much to learn

Mar 12, 2011, 11:24 PM EDT

Photo by Mark Zuckerman / NATS INSIDER
Physically and mentally, Bryce Harper looked like he belonged in big-league camp.

Did Bryce Harper, optioned to low-Class A Hagerstown late this afternoon, actually make the decision difficult for the Nationals? Did his performance in 13 Grapefruit League games — a .389 batting average, three doubles, five RBI — make team officials pause for a moment and question whether he might actually be ready for the big-time?

No, not at all. Make no mistake, they were impressed with what they saw out of a supremely talented but still very raw teenager playing alongside established major leaguers 10-to-20 years older than him.

But Mike Rizzo had his plan for Harper in place from day one, and nothing the kid did on the field was going to change it. Whether Harper went 18-for-18 or 0-for-18, he was going to get shipped out to minor-league camp sometime in early-to-mid March. And no matter what, he was going to begin his minor-league career in Hagerstown.

Read my full analysis of Bryce Harper, including a potential timeline for his progression through the minors, on CSNwashington.com.

  1. HabsProf - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:00 AM

    Mark: We heard recently that Morse is "winning" the left field job (and he only enhanced his odds with his performance today). For those of us restricted to looking at box scores, it is clear that he has had the superior bat this spring. However, how is he as a fielder? We've focused so much on his offensive performance that I really have no idea how solid he is in the field, particularly how he stacks up against Bernadina and Ankiel. Any insight you care to offer?

  2. Feel Wood - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:19 AM

    On the MASN broadcast today they didn't say Morse was "winning" the left field job. They said he had won it.

  3. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:40 AM

    Rizzo's exact wording was "If opening day were today Michael Morse would be the starting left fielder". Followed by "even if he went 0 for 10 now". Instead Morse went 2/3 with an opposite center/right field home run.Now its a competition between Bernadina, Morse (who have options), Ankiel and Nix (who do not have options however Nix signed a minor league contract), Corey Brown (unlikely; but about to play again after the ankle sprain), and Hairston (who is envisioned as more of a utility guy, no more Willie Harris utility guy starting in center field).

  4. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:41 AM

    Now its a competition between Bernadina, Morse (who have options),Typo … correction: "Now its a competition between Bernadina, Morgan (who have options),

  5. Slidell - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Harper will likely be at Hagerstown until the end of the Sun's 2nd home stand (May 13). One would assume by then that he will have experienced enough rickety bus rides, and will be dominating offensively, and all the while learning the niceties of outfield play. He will then be off to Potomac. Because there are few High A pitchers with the ability to show him a really good slider, etc., he will probably have to be sent to Harrisburg by August to continue his education.

  6. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2011 at 1:29 AM

    It might help to have Harper in Potomac for an extended period of time. Hood, Pere, King and Ramirez need more than a little prodding as apparently does Kobernus? While Harper gets 'edumacated' Yogi Berra style his play can serve to put a red hot cattle prod under some of these to get moving or else.

  7. Les in NC - Mar 13, 2011 at 2:37 AM

    Now where am I gonna get my daily Harper news fix? Can someone steer me to a place that gives coverage to the minor league camps?

  8. Anonymous - Mar 13, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    Meanwhile back at the ranch, I mean farm … or ST 2011. Gee Mark has this great article about the left field position up for grabs … and Bernadina featured .. ??Hahahaha Mark got suckered just like a batter by one of Livo's mickey mouse curves. He knew who would win the job all along … he just wanted the competition to bring the best out of Morse et al …. great plan! I likeit! Sigh all one had to do was look at the bat that demolished two AAA leagues. But not one pundit did.

  9. Big Cat - Mar 13, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    While I have been chirping about Harper going north with the big club, I knew the business side of things. But you gotta admit, behind closed doors, Rizzo and the Nats must be just gushing about "the kid"

  10. Theophilus - Mar 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM

    "The bat that demolished two leagues?" Someone needs to recall that Seattle was willing to give up TBTDTL for Ryan Langerhans. By implication, that means 28 other teams weren't willing to offer Seattle anything better than Langerhans. While Morse is looking more and more like a $126MM player, it's a safe guess that pretty much all of baseball is surprised.

  11. Mark'd - Mar 13, 2011 at 5:13 PM

    All last season there were 5 or 6 regular posters on here gushing on Michael Morse. Only Rizzo couldn't see it for most of the season.My only negative on Michael is that he will get in a groove and then start swinging for the heavens and lose his swing so he had many streaks and many slumps. The great ones have long consistent streaks and few slumps.With that said, as of now MM has earned starting LF.

  12. Mark'd - Mar 13, 2011 at 5:31 PM

    Big Cat, BHarper's cut was not a business move. He is nowhere ready to be a full time MLB player. He could be a bench player today and contribute more than Rick Ankiel which tells you how good BHarper is but then you would be diminishing his ultimate potential.He has to play everyday and should be in AA quickly. His true test comes when he can face a true Ace pitcher and hold his own.As pointed out by others, all of BHarper's came against AAA quality pitchers and never really faced a front of the rotation starter.The way Bryce handled the AAA pitchers so well tells you he will absolutely CRUSH in A ball!!!!

  13. Andrew - Mar 13, 2011 at 6:28 PM

    Mark'd – All good points on Morse and Bryce Harper. Also, Mark Zuckerman points out a reasonable timeline.

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