Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com reports that Washington Nationals number one overall pick Bryce Harper will make his professional baseball debut this Friday when he reports to the instructional league:
"The Nationals' top draft pick will report to the club's spring training complex in Viera, Fla., this week and begin working out with Washington's instructional league squad on Friday, the first of several steps toward his eventual arrival in the big leagues...Harper, who turns 18 on October 16, has been working out on his own since the Nationals drafted him first in the country on June 7. He signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract seconds before baseball's August 17 deadline but did not play in any minor-league games before those seasons ended last week."
We know that Harper has been chomping at the bit to play baseball since even before the Nationals signed him this August. A known diamond-dog, the stretch between the end of the College of Southern Nevada's season and this Friday is probably the longest the teenager has gone without playing baseball since Tee-Ball.
While his presence at camp on Friday will really be ultimately meaningless in terms of his transformation from amatuer to superstar, it will mean worlds to Nationals fans struggling to find hope in the end of this 2010 season. Nats fans placed similar hope in starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg last year who followed a similar development plan to Harpers. The joy of following his progress throughout the winter kept fans warm with the hope of a brighter tomorrow. Hopefully, watching Harper tackle the Arizona Fall League this winter and then the lower ranks of the minors next season will fill Nats-town with just as much excitment as Strasburg did in 2010.
Harper likely wont crack the big league roster until 2012, and when he does his position is still yet to be known. It is likely the Nationals will work him in as an outfielder, and with the recent fallout of the organization with Nyjer Morgan, centerfield may very well be the destination for Harper and not the corner-outfield as we had previously guessed. Harper played mostly catcher in high-school and during his one season at College of Southern Nevada, but he has played other positions. He also has well regarded overall athleticism and a rocket arm that may just make him a natural fit for center-field.
Regardless of what position he ends up playing, many consider Harper the final piece of the puzzle to get the Nationals to the playoffs. Once Strasburg returns healthy, and the rookies of 2010 get their barrings, the team has legitimate potential to push for a division title.