The star of tomorrow will make his debut tomorrow.
The Nationals have announced that Bryce Harper will be activated from Triple-A Syracuse and will replace third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the 25-man roster. Zimmerman will be placed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday.
Harper, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 draft, will make his major league debut at Dodger Stadium on Saturday.
Speaking on a conference call with reporters late this afternoon, general manager Mike Rizzo said that this wasn’t how the Nationals had intended for Harper to see his first major league action, but with Zimmerman and Michael Morse sidelined because of injuries, the Nats felt the need to add more power to their lineup.
“Suffice it to say, this isn’t the coming out party for Bryce that we had in mind. This isn’t the optimal situation developmentally for Bryce,” Rizzo said. “... (But) he’s swinging the bat extremely well right now and looked very comfortable in left field.
“We still have a very good and committed developmental plan for Bryce in place. I still believe very passionately in the plan, and I’m going to be very committed to it. But this was expedited by the circumstances and two of our middle of the lineup guys going down. We felt that we needed to bring in an impactful left-handed bat that could play corner outfield.”
Because Harper spent the minimum 20 days at the minor league level (barely) before being called up, the Nats ensured that he won’t be able to reach free agency until after the 2018 season. Had Harper been called up before spending the 20 days in the minors, the Nats would have lost a year of Harper’s service.
Harper might, however, still qualify for “Super Two” arbitration status, which could cost the Nationals millions of dollars in salary in future seasons.
Traditionally a slow starter at each level level at which he plays, Harper’s numbers in Triple-A haven’t been stellar. He’s hit .250 with one home run and three RBIs, and batted just .190 against left-handed pitching.
Over the last 10 games, however, Harper has hit .290 with a .421 on-base percentage and has slugged .419.
He will play left field for the Nationals, “because that’s the place we need him at this time,” Rizzo said. Still, Rizzo said the Nats have not abandoned their initial plan to prepare Harper to play center field in the majors.
It will be up to manager Davey Johnson to determine how often Harper will play and where he hits in the order, but Rizzo made it clear Harper will get plenty of playing time.
“We didn’t bring Bryce up to sit on the bench,” Rizzo said.
Asked whether he feels Harper will now stick in the big leagues for good, Rizzo compared the 19-year-old’s situation to that of Angels prospect Mike Trout, who was called up to the majors last season but started this year at Triple-A.
“I’m not going to commit either way that he’ll be sent back to the minor leagues or stay in the big leagues,” Rizzo said. “When Zim gets off the disabled list, we’ll be monitoring the situation on a daily basis and we’ll make our decision then.”
Zimmerman, meanwhile, will continue to be sidelined because of right shoulder inflammation. Rizzo said that after Zimmerman met with a specialist in Los Angeles, the team feels confident their third baseman’s injury isn’t “debilitating” and they believe there’s a “good chance” he could come off the DL when he’s eligible to be activated on May 5.
The Nats’ GM did acknowledge, however, that “these things can take on a life of their own,” a reference to Morse and closer Drew Storen having to miss a large chunk of time due to lingering injuries.