Baseball Insider

Nationals are taking a gamble with call-up of wunderkind Harper, 19

The first two things you'll notice about Bryce Harper, who will be in the Nationals lineup Saturday vs. the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium, are that he swings as hard as anyone in the game, and he runs as hard, too.

The next thing to notice, if you have a chance to meet him, is that he is not afraid.

There's no guarantee the Nationals' 19-year-old wunderkind is ready for his surprise promotion -- he's hitting just .250 with one home run and three RBI in 72 at-bats in the minors -- and the suspicion here is that he may not be. But one thing about Harper is that a little failure won't advresely affect him. He can take it.

The kid is just too confident ... though some might call it cocky.

Harper's ascension is coming out of necessity, the Nationals are telling folks, even though they are off to the best start in their history. The issue for them is their disappearing offense. Their best hitter, Ryan Zimmerman, just joined their second best hitter, Michael Morse, on the disabled list.

Their left-field situation isn't currently working without Morse. Late signee Xavier Nady is batting just .147 so far (seven for 47) with one home run and one RBI.

Harper isn't exactly tearing it up for Syracuse in the International League, either. But they hope a greater challenge might inspire the once-in-a-generation talent. He swings and plays as hard as anyone you'll ever see. Whether that's enough at this early stage can't be known yet.

Harper has six hits in his last 18 at-bats in the minors. So he's looking a bit better lately. But he's far from dominating Triple-A.

"He's swinging the bat extremely well and looks comfortable in left field," Nationals GM Mike Rizzo told Nationals writers. "We thought that we needed an impact left-handed bat.''

They Nats also are planning for this to be temporary. But of course, Harper could change those plans if he takes off.

The timing works for the Nationals. They kept him down long enough to delay his free agency by a year. But if he stays up all this year and the next two, he'll qualify for arbitration a year earlier. That's another reason this call-up might only be temporrary.

But the best reason of all is that he might not be ready. Even folks close to Harper aren't quite so sure. They know he's a stud. But he is, after all, only 19 'til October.

It's tough to question the Nationals, who are on a roll.

But this move looks like quite a roll of the dice.


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