If Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson gets his wish, baseball's top prospect, Bryce Harper, will be on the major league roster come April 5th in Chicago. Johnson has said this before, but it was most recently reported by Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.
It's hard to not think about the impact that Harper's bat in the Nationals lineup would have for the team. Harper has a ridiculous arm and is getting better at tracking balls down in the outfield, and he's excelled offensively at every level he's seen so far in the minor league system, too. Some in baseball have said Harper could be one of the best prospects in the history of baseball, drawing comparisons to Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey, Jr., and Chipper Jones. Let's just consider for a moment what the Nationals roster could look like on Opening Day if Harper makes the jump from Double-A to the Majors in Spring Training.
- Ian Desmond
- Jayson Werth
- Ryan Zimmerman
- Michael Morse
- Adam LaRoche
- Bryce Harper
- Danny Espinosa
- Wilson Ramos
- Stephen Strasburg
This is without a doubt one of the best young rosters in the game, and there is plenty of room for growth as far as talent goes in the coming years. Most of this lineup is under club control for at least the next two years.
It's also hard to avoid the financial implications of this deal. If Harper breaks camp with the Nats, it starts his arbitration clock early, meaning Nationals could be forced to pay Harper a huge chunk of money a year earlier than they anticipated. The Lerners are among the wealthiest owners in baseball, but there is a limit to what they can pay. When you look at the players the team will have to sign to big money deals in the next few years, including Ryan Zimmerman, Stephen Strasburg, and Harper himself, that extra year could be the thing that keeps Harper from ending up with the New York Yankees.
It's hard to know what will happen for sure, but as we get into Spring Training games in March and players are moved to minor league camp, it will be interesting to see if Harper's name ever ends up on the cut list. It seems likely that he'll be with big league camp through most of the month, and it seems like a solid performance could force GM Mike Rizzo to listen to Johnson and bring Harper to DC to start the year.
To me the issue is not the arbitration money he will get as a Super Two, it is losing a year of team control when he becomes a free agent in 2017 instead 0f 2018. We would be trading a few weeks of 19 year old Bryce Harper for 1 year of the 25 year old version. I am unclear when he can come up and avoid accruing a full year, maybe someone else understands all the rules. I think it is at least 11 days. To avoid Super Two he needs to stay down for about three months.
@Mr.Dumberton Completely agree with this. Also, the older he is when he hits free-agency the more his value goes down.
Regardless, I think that if he performs well in his first three seasons, the NAts would be wise to lock him down to a long-term deal right off the bat, rather than wait until he nears free agency...Boras may not be into that though.
@WillyYoder I would like to think that Bryce will fall in love with DC and the Nationals and be willing to sign a long-term extension here, but the cynical side of me thinks that he will one day wear pinstripes.
@nats_prospects I think that's a valid question, but outfield is the easiest position to learn and currently reaching the bar that Nats outfields have set defensively isn't that difficult.
If this were to happen, which I DO NOT think it will, my guess is they would have Werth at center and Harper in right field.
I think more so than his defense, however, is the fact that he's just not ready on offense. He hasn't had one at bat above Double-A, and even at that level he struggled late in the season. Those struggles could be fore one of two reasons. Either injuries took a toll on his young body, or pitchers were able to figure out the slugger and Harper was unable to adjust.
That ability to adjust is HUGE, and the only way to address it is by slowly progressing him through the minor leagues. No one questions that his hand-eye coordination, quickness, or power is MLB ready, however hte ability to produce consistently is what he is working on in the minors.
I would prefer a Joey Votto type progression to Washington than a Mike Stanton one. Stanton is an unbelievable talent, but we've seen him struggle with consistency.