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Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Posted on: February 3, 2012 12:12 pm
Edited on: February 3, 2012 1:53 pm

Nationals manager Davey Johnson has been telling anyone who'll listen he wants slugging teen-aged phenom Bryce Harper to start the season with the big-league team. And while most folks around baseball think that's a reach, Johnson may getting through to some people -- in fact, the very people making the call.

"We're take a look at him and see where he's at developmentally. If we feel he's ready to play at the major-league level, we're not going to restrict him,'' Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said by phone. "We'll be cautious yet open-minded. If he gives us the best chance to win, we'll keep an open mind and see where it takes us.''

While Harper is universally viewed as one of the best prospects in baseball, he is only 19, and skeptics outside the organization don't view Harper's immediate ascension as very likely. One said, half jokingly, "It just gives Davey something to talk about.'' Others pointed to Harper's .256 batting average at Double-A Harrisburg (Pa.) last year as evidence he needs another year of seasoning. Harper also slugged just .395 at Harrisburg after tearing up Class-A to the tune of a .318 batting average and .977 OPS to start his pro career.

Putting all that aside, everyone wonders whether the Nats would want to start Harper's arbitration and free-agent clocks so early. Angels phenom Mike Trout played in the big leagues at 19 last year, and the research of Danny Knobler of CBSSports revealed several other players to play in the bigs at 19 in recent years, including Jose Reyes, Adrian Beltre, Karim Garcia, Wilson Betemit and the Upton Brothers, but Andruw Jones as the last position player to break camp with a major-league team at 19 when he did it for the Braves in 1997 (Felix Hernandez is the last 19-year-old pitcher to break camp with a big-league team.).

There is also a suggestion that the Nats are willing to say that he may make the team because they want to provide extra incentive for Harper to show his best during spring training. Though by saying publicly he can play his way onto the team, that also, puts pressure on them to make good on the promise. Regardless, that isn't deterring Rizzo.

"If he gives us the best chance to win, and (we) feel he's fully prepared to play in the big leagues, he'll make the team,'' Rizzo said.

There is a lot of excitement around the Nats after their additions of Gio Gonzalez, Edwin Jackson, Brad Lidge and others. While the Phillies remain the favorite in a strong National League East division, the Nats look like a bona fide contender. Washington looked hard at Prince Fielder but ultimately spent on pitching, which fits Rizzo's defense-and-pitching plan. (While they were in on Fielder almost until the end, they are believed to have held the line on years and are believed to have been outbid by at least three others, including the winning Tigers.)

"We feel good about where we're at,'' Rizzo said. "We feel we've strengthened two parts of the team. We have a better, deeper more well-rounded rotation and we've improved a strength in the bullpen by adding a veteran presence.''

The key to Jackson are the innings he brings. Rizzo said that's because pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg is on a pitch limit, Jordan Zimmermann has never thrown 200 innings and Chien-Ming Wang is a couple years removed from shoulder surgery. Jackson will receive $11 million for one year, with $9 million of it actually paid in 2012 and the other $2 million next year.

Though Rizzo is a pitching-first guy, the lineup, which is anchored by Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Morse and Jayson Werth, still looks still looks strong. It will look that much stronger if, as Johnson envisions, Harper can tap his potential immediately and play his way into the Opening day lineup.


Since: Feb 27, 2009
Posted on: February 5, 2012 10:02 am

Play the Best Player's

If he out-performs the other Nats outfielders in spring training you play him.

Since: Nov 30, 2010
Posted on: February 5, 2012 4:22 am

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

TO  soon ,needs more time.

Since: Feb 26, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 10:56 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

I'm sure Harper will be fine and really doesn't need anymore "seasoning"!  Yes MLB pitching is very difficult to hit, but he tends to make adjustments fairly quickly.  I also think his situation is much different then any other player in the history of the game.  No player has had the exposure he has had since he was 14 years old.  The kid has been playing with more spotlight on him then most MLB players ever get, including stars.  The expectations are high, but I'm pretty sure ever since he did make the cover and became the "Lebron of baseball", those expectations have been there.  He followed that up at Southern Nevada by hitting .443 with 31 HR's, 98 RBI, 20 SB's in 24 attempts, nearly as many BB's as K's, and a .526 OBP%.  His first year in pro ball was similar, if not better, then another great hitter of the past decade:
Harper: 387 AB's, .297 BA, .392 OBP%, 17 HR, 58 RBI, 26 SB, and 24 doubles
Other Hitter: 490 AB's, .314 BA, .378 OBP%, 19 HR, 96 RBI, 4 SB, and 41 doubles

I would guess if he did make the big league club out of camp, on the low side, he will hit around .260 or so with 15 to 20 HR and 15 to 20 SB's, and the RBI will depend upon where he hits.  I would take that from a 19 year old that I am paying big money to.

Oh, by the way, the other hitter above is Albert Pujols.  Most of his stats came from A ball, he had like 3 AB's in AAA. Pretty impressive!

Since: Sep 19, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:46 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Let the kid play why not honestly  whats there to loose ????????   even  if he gives you Werth type numbers its a heck of a lot better than having Werth stinking up the joint yet another over paid bum !!!
Let see what Harper do in spring Training first then decide if he played good enough to make roster, even if they make Harper the starting RF they just move Werth to CF.  Looking how Harper played at Harrisburg(AA Team) I don't think it's be a big chance he make the roster, Harper prove that he can hit at the A level but did not do so good at AA level.

Since: Sep 2, 2008
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:40 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Let me make my self perfectly clear, $15 Million buckaroo's later, let the "boy" become a man by playing with the big boys.  If he is "wonder-boy" then let him prove it, don't pamper him or think that it will hurt him or his pocket book.  He is what he is, and if he is THAT good he will adjust to whatever they "throw" at him.
Mickey Mantle had to go down, but not long after he figured it out, but it takes AB's and his God Given $15 Million dollar promises to make it happen.  Sink or swim, you have it or you don't, and if he dominate college as a high schooler, then dominate the Majors as a Minor Leaguer.

As I said, if he has that "something" that is seldom ever seen, then let him show it, he'll make the adjustments if he truly has 'IT".  If he's human, then he won't show it, bring him down and nurse him with his $15 Million dollar baby bottle.

Since: Nov 14, 2006
Posted on: February 4, 2012 6:32 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

MistaP... He took the money because that's what the Nats offered. The Nats have all of the responsibility to develop this kid correctly. Your logic is flawed. He is only 19 and he needs to develop and if that means keeping him at AA for 1 more year then fine. The team decided to draft him why would he not take the money ? I agree with you hat he has the pressure for justifying the contract but he has time and that's what your failing to understand.

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:51 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Some of this connects to the arbitration clock.
The rest of it is probably about expectations.
Harper needs more time in the minors.

Since: Aug 22, 2006
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:46 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Case in point, Dominic Brown up here in Philly, brought him up and he wasn't ready, now what do you do?  Sit him and start him every 4th or 5th game or send him down for more seasoning.  No sense in rushing him, he's not going to help and as someone else said, he need to mature more...

Since: Apr 22, 2011
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:38 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Let the kid play why not honestly  whats there to loose ????????   even  if he gives you Werth type numbers its a heck of a lot better than having Werth stinking up the joint yet another over paid bum !!!

Since: Jul 28, 2008
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:28 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

#1 picks by and large have been successful at the MLB level. Since 1990, 11 players have been what I could consider at least good major league players (Price, Upton, Young, Mauer, Gonzalez, Hamilton, Burrell, Erstad, ARod, Nevin, Jones) with 2 for sure hall of famers (Chipper and ARod). Its still possible Mauer and Adrian Gonzalez will get there. To even suggest #1 picks are not worth it in baseball is just silly. Most don't cost that much and you have a better than 50% chance they make major contributions at the MLB level. Also, I did not include Strasburg in the numbers though I believe he will be a stud for years to come.

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