Bank on Harper starting season in Washington
Word out of Washington, D.C., is that the Nationals are considering moving Jayson Werth to center field for the upcoming season. This move would allow a certain 19-year-old prospect to take over in right field.
Offensively, Bryce Harper is ready to play with the big boys. If you combine his regular season numbers with single-A Hagerstown and double-A Harrisburg with his Arizona Fall League numbers, he hit .304 with 30 doubles, four triples, 23 home runs, 84 RBIs, 30 stolen bases and .393/.527/.920 in 134 games. He drew 70 walks, showing an advanced approach at the plate, and he struck out 109 times, which isn’t bad considering he was one of the youngest players in all three leagues. He may struggle with strikeouts early in his major-league career, mostly because of his aggressiveness, but I can realistically see him hitting around .280 with 25 HRs/80 RBIs/ 20 SBs in a full rookie season. The Nats need a left-handed bat in their lineup, and Harper gives them that without having to spend in the free agent market.
Defensively, he will be all right. His arm is outstanding and his speed gives him range to catch up to most anything. There are accuracy and positioning concerns, but he still is relatively new to the outfield after playing catcher most of his life. He isn’t playing a premium infield position so his defensive flaws can be masked for the time being. He isn’t Alfonso Soriano bad, so he’ll be just fine out there.
Mentally, aside from being perceived as a little too cocky sometimes, he will be more than fine. He has been playing with older, and better, competition his whole life. He will adjust. Remember, this is a kid who has dealt with the spotlight since he was 10 years old. He loves every second of it. He battles through slumps, such as when he started the Arizona Fall League 2 for 23 with one RBI in his first six games. Then he hit .414 with 25 RBIs in the next 19. He may not be mature in terms of age and character at times, but he is, without a doubt, when it comes to playing baseball.
The timing is right too. Not only is he ready, so is Stephen Strasburg. After successful Tommy John surgery and rehabilitation, Strasburg came back in 2010 to post a 1.50 ERA, 0.71 WHIP with 24 K/ 2BB in 24 innings. Throw in a healthy Ryan Zimmerman, and the off chance they acquire Prince Fielder as some reports are being rumored, and the Nationals are going to be an exciting and potent team in the National League. The circus is headed straight to D.C., all aboard the bandwagon.