It shouldn’t come as a surprise that outfielder Bryce Harper was sent to Triple-A Syracuse to begin the 2012 campaign, eliminating the question of whether the Nationals’ top prospect would break camp with the system’s top team and head to D.C. in April.
It is the best scenario for the 19-year-old to taste every level of the minor league system so he will be ready with a good dose of experience before he dons a Nationals jersey on South Capitol Street in a major league game.
Of course there is the financial consideration and the long term benefit of having Harper in a Nationals uniform until at least 2018. As I wrote about in February, with a season totaling 183 days, if Harper is with the Nationals for 170 or less days then the team has control of his rights through the 2018 season.
It cannot hurt Harper to face as-close-as-you-can-get-to major league pitching in Syracuse for a month or longer anyway, that way he will be as seasoned as a 19-year-old could be before he gets the call to D.C.
Also, as far as Super Two status goes, the Nationals could wait until sometime in June to promote their top prospect, which would delay even more when Harper would be eligible for salary arbitration.
And that hits another bottom line here. You want Harper to be ready for the long haul with the Nationals so he and the franchise don’t have to think about looking back. There is no harm if he plays the entire season in Syracuse. If it is just a month, that is even better.
If the Nationals can get off to a nice start and Harper is called up with the team humming along, the transition will be seamless and he can blend in instead of having to turn things around for a struggling team. There will be enough pressure on him anyway.
This is the best case scenario for Harper and the Nationals for so many reasons.
Besides, it is a glimpse into the future of the Nationals in Syracuse with big boppers Harper and Tyler Moore in the same lineup for the first time at the Triple-A level, as it should be.