Bryce Harper’s first season as a Washington National has had its fair share of trials and tribulations. The first few headlines were not injury related thanks to a kiss taunt back in June, a disappointing showing in the futures game, arguably in the biggest stage he’s ever played on. And just this past month, Harper was ejected after arguing balls and strikes and finished the tirade by slamming his helmet down.
All of those story lines are not as serious as Harper’s current circumstance. On Wednesday evening Harper had to be carried off the field after straining his right hamstring in Akron. The Nationals released a statement saying that the top prospect would be re-evaluated on Friday. Harper was injured while running to third base in the eighth inning.
Hamstring injuries are the most nagging in sports because the muscle is needed for speed and explosion. There are two weeks left in the minor league season and it’s entirely possible that we've seen Harper’s last days in Class-AA Harrisburg. Rest is the key ingredient in making sure this injury doesn't become a long-term problem. If I were Mike Rizzo, I would even think of letting him miss some of fall-ball just to be on the safe side.
Now that Harper’s season seems just about done, let’s take a quick look at his numbers.
A Hagerstown: 72 games, .318/.423/.554/ 14 HR, 46 RBI, 17 2B, 49 R, 44 BB, 61 SO
AA Harrisburg: 37 games, .256/.329/.395/ 3 HR, 12 RBI, 7 2B, 14 R, 15 BB, 26 SO
Total: 109 games, .297/.392/.501/ 17 HR, 58 RBI, 24 2B, 63 R, 59 BB, 87 SO
There is a boatload of reasons to explain Harper's dramatic drop off once he was promoted to Class-AA. Obviously, the competition gets better and the pro baseball grind might be attributed to Harper’s drop off. The 109 games he appeared in is almost double of the 66 he played last season with Southern Nevada. Clearly, the pressure from every national angle may have started to take its toll on the 18-year-old kid’s mind.
For me, there is a factor no one has mentioned at all. How about the position change? Harper started in Class-A Hagerstown 51 times in right field and an additional 20 times in center field. All of sudden his production was mediocre while in left field. Sound familiar?
Both Roger Bernadina and especially Mike Morse had severe problems at the plate while manning the left side of the outfield. The organization needs to come up with an answer as to what position Harper should play upon his arrival to the bigs. Why not center field? It looks as if most of us have overrated Harper’s power ability. Having him hit second in the lineup in the earlier part of his career – while he’s still filling out – is not a bad idea at all.
Get used to all the hoopla that surrounds Harper. As he gets older and eventually breaks the big league roster, an even greater amount of scrutiny and expectations will be hurled from the sluggers naysayers since Harper is a polarizing figure like an Alex Rodriguez or a LeBron James.
I’m particularly pleased about his first season in the organization though. He avoided any major injuries, hit nearly .300 and showed his valuable talents in the outfield. A call up to the majors in mid June of 2012 ala Stephen Strasburg is not out of the question at all.