Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made the decision to call up 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper on Saturday. After two games, Rizzo said Harper showed exactly what he had shown in the minor leagues, a player that can hit, hit for power and go after every ball in the outfield.
Rizzo said Harper’s final at-bat was his best of the weekend when he earned a walk off Dodgers right-handed reliever Kenley Jansen.
Harper didn’t strike out or flail at every pitch. He measured Jansen well and hung in there to draw the free pass.
“He is a very aggressive swinger,” Rizzo said. “But, I think he is a very patient, aggressive swinger. As he shown (Sunday), he has a great knowledge of the strike zone. Often times in the minor leagues his strike zone recognition was as good or better than the umpires in the league.”
Rizzo said Harper’s patience is tested in a different way in the majors, compared to his short time in the minors. He has had to adjust to how the men in blue call games at the highest level.
“In the minor leagues, especially in the games I saw personally, he is hitting behind in the count where as in the big leagues he may have been ahead in the count.
“He showed a little bit of that this weekend, where he spit on several pitches that were border line but they were out of the zone. He (still) had a quality at-bat.”
Rizzo scoffs at prognosticators that believe players like Harper will have an easier time in the majors because they will face less junk and more controlled pitches.
“I think the opinion that it is sometimes easier to hit at this level, I never bought into that because if it was there would be a lot more people hitting here,” Rizzo said. “Some guys have the propensity to take it to the next level anywhere that they play. He is one of them.”
Rizzo has stated before, he never likes to compare Harper to anyone because it is so early, but from an age standpoint, Diamondbacks right fielder Justin Upton had a similar path to the majors as Harper.
“The only person that I had in my career that mirrors him is Justin Upton,” Rizzo said. “They are both 19-year-old big leaguers and Upton was a 20-year-old All-Star. Those are the two elite players that I have had. They are kind of the same skill sets and changing of positions to the outfield before they played a single game.”
Rizzo won’t ask Harper to tone it down in the field, either. He was not concerned when Harper went hard into the center field wall to make a catch against the Dodgers.
“He has got great baseball instincts but he goes 100 mph in everything he does,” Rizzo said. “That to will come with experience. He leaves it out there on the field every time he plays.”