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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: Dec 1, 2009
Posted on: February 4, 2012 5:27 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Outrageous, bringing the kid north, when he's less than four months beyond his eighteenth birthday. Why, he's never even played in C-ball or the Instructional League. They'll ruin that Kaline boy!

Since: May 17, 2007
Posted on: February 4, 2012 3:48 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

I am still a little puzzled that the Nats think this pitching staff is all that great.
Just because we've heard of them?
But, wow, they had discussions with Prince Fielder, so I guess that makes them a contender.

Since: Feb 4, 2012
Posted on: February 4, 2012 12:04 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Thank you for saying everything that I would have said in regard to this article.  Unfortunately, this is just one example of the incompetance that seems to be rampant where internet news publishing is concerned.  Are they paying pre-schoolers to check these articles before unleashing them on the public, or what?

Since: Dec 7, 2006
Posted on: February 4, 2012 9:00 am

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

I think he should spend more time at AA. He is just 19, he has plenty of time to mature. Let him have more time in AA and then perhaps later in the season bring him up. But to have him break camp with the team now is not necessary, there would be way too much pressure on the kid too.

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: February 4, 2012 7:41 am

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

EDITORS NOTE - Where are you?  CBS Sports would like the world to recognize their network as a source for sports information and news.  The beginning of this article is so poorly written that I only read the entire post out of morbid curiousity.  I did find it grammatically clean over the 2nd half.  But the first half has word ommitions, improper punctuation, run-on sentences, etc.  I highly doubt that the very well educated Mike Rizzo actually was quoted saying "We're take a look at him..."

Sadly this happens all over CBS Sports, and I'm not the grammar police, but it happens in posts about players, in their main articles, and I've even seen mistakes on team pages.

As for Bryce Harper, I've been following this kid since SI put him on their cover three years ago.  He's a phenomenal prospect, and I say give him a chance to prove it at the big-league level.  This is why he got his GED and enrolled into junior college at 17 years old, to make him eligible for the draft one year early.  My biggest concern, along with many that posted, is that he is not mature enough.  That's another reason to throw him in now, let him face bitter disappointment now, while he's still developing.  Obstacles will either make him a better player, or they will reveal who he really is, either way, I like him being there now!

Since: Mar 2, 2008
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:47 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

The kid took millions bra.   The moment you choose to accrpt that it is your own fault that people have high expectations for you.  If these picks want to stay in the minors to develop their game for the long-term they can just not sign till the dealine of their draft year or take less money.   Less money equates to less pressures.

If you want these lil kids to develop into pro athletes, then it is something they are choosing to not do.  Bryce could have come back in three years to the draft as a developed college athlete, nobody forced him to sign that contract so soon.  That was his choice, which make it justified to see him in the majors a whole lot sooner.   You take on alot of money, you should be responsible to take on the same exact responsibilities as any older athletes do.  Which is why he is going to the majors alot sooner.  Which is why he is getting boo'd in minros so often already.  Bryce didn't have to choose this route.

Since: Sep 9, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:29 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

So you would rather see him come up and struggle possibly destroying his confidence mista p? I think not you baby these guys completely. When he learns how to hit minor league pitching consistently than you call him up, he cant even do that yet.

Since: Sep 9, 2009
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:27 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

he hit .256 in double a, hes not ready for the big leagues. Lets not don baylor this kid.

Since: Nov 8, 2010
Posted on: February 3, 2012 10:13 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Ridiculous.  This kid is not ready for MLB pitchers NOR is he emotionally mature.  
He needs to hit minor league pitching consistantly before being brought up.  
Polish him up a little.   

Since: Sep 24, 2006
Posted on: February 3, 2012 8:41 pm

Nats' Rizzo: Bryce can make team; others unsure

Probably a better plan to place him on the roster when his play dictates that you absolutely cannot keep him down any more.  Make him earn every bit of it before rewarding him with a big league spot.

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