The noise coming out of Hagerstown that is Bryce Harper gets louder and louder by the day. As Jeff Passan reports, the 18-year-old phenom had is eyes checked for the first time last week and to every amateur pitcher in the nation's shock, Harper had been batting his entire career half blind. Now armed with 20-20 vision, the kid from Nevada has been on an absolute tear. Today, the league named him the South Atlantic League co-Player of the Week.
Harper has been raking all month, but this week he has been especially on point. In six games He has batted .500 (12 for 24) with one home round, four doubles, and five walks to help raise his season numbers to .371/.460/.701 through 28 games in low Single-A ball. Harper had already been the focus of National attention with his hype alone, but his performance has caught the eyes of many, forcing both insiders and outsiders to wonder, when will he be promoted?
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus weighed in on the situation in this Monday's Ten Pack:
"With three multi-hit games over the weekend, Harper's .371/.460/.701 season line is impressive enough, but his ridiculous .466/.544/.948 line in his last 16 games show that he's too good for this level, despite being just 18. Much like last year at junior college, Harper isn't just as good as advertised, he's accomplishing the nearly impossible by being better."
Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated also weighed in on the issue:
"One NL scout who went to Class-A Hagerstown recently said, flat out, "He is the best young player I have seen." That means ever. Harper has shown his once-in-a-generation power (seven home runs) but has also shown the ability to bunt (that scout saw two straight bunts hits to beat a shift against the lefthanded-hitting Harper) and steal (five stolen bases). The NL executive didn't disagree about Harper, who has a .701 slugging percentage and 1.161 OPS. "He's the best of them all. He has a chance to be a perennial MVP candidate. He plays the game the right way, has the best power in the minors and isn't far off the best power in the majors.'' Should he rise three more levels get a callup this year, he'll also be the first 18-year-old to play in the majors since Alex Rodriguez in 1994. Next year is more logical for his promotion, and if it's then, he'll be a rare 19-year-old to play in the majors (Adrian Beltre was one)."
The fact that Harper is an unprecedented talent is no news at this point. Nationals fans who have been following his progress are more and more amazed by the day. To many, it is no longer a question of if he will be a future force in the Nationals lineup, but a question of when, and that’s an answer that lies partially on Harper's speed of development...but mostly within Rizzo's strategy. Other than the fact that the big league Nationals are hitting terribly, there is no reason to rush him up. My best guess is that Harper will see another week or two in Hagerstown before getting the call up to Potomac. If he hits well there, his stay could be significantly shorter than it was for Hagerstown, and he will go to Harrisburg where he will likely finish the season...regardless of production.