It's been fairly clear since spring training that Bryce Harper wouldn't play in the majors this season, when general manager Mike Rizzo all but guaranteed Harper wouldn't make it. But as Harper's gotten off to a hot start at Single-A Hagerstown, some of you have been calling for him to head to the majors. Rizzo said again today, once more with feeling, it's not happening in 2011.
Speaking on ESPN 980 today, Rizzo said he'd ruled out Harper playing in the majors this year. "It's not gonna happen, because he's not ready for that to happen. He's got to learn the nuances of the game of baseball," Rizzo said. "We certainly don't want him to push him to a level where he's overmatched and struggles even for a short period of time. We're just not going to put him in a place where he has a chance to fail until we feel that he's 100 percent ready for that level.
"And when he is, we will certainly bring him up, because we want to win as bad as anybody else. And nobody wants to win worse than I do. Believe me, if I felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right now and perform in the big leagues right now, he would be up in the big leagues. If he gave us the best chance to win, he'd be up there, trying to help us win."
Harper is hitting .366 with nine homers in 36 games at Hagerstown, and he might not be in the South Atlantic League much longer. However, his first move to the Washington metro area would likely be to Woodbridge, home of the Single-A Potomac Nationals.
Rizzo said he believes Harper "needs to touch every level of the minor league system - A-ball, Double-A, Triple-A and the big leagues. He's going to do some Arizona Fall League action. Believe me, I have a specific plan in my mind for Bryce Harper. It's what I do for a living. It's what I've done to get to be the general manager of a Major League Baseball team, is to develop players. Believe me, we want this player to be developed to optimize his skill set and his talent level, and we're going to do the right thing by him for the long-term."
The Nationals would like Harper to reach Double-A Harrisburg this year, but they aren't in any rush to make that happen. So once again, don't get your hopes up to see Harper in a Nationals uniform this year.
I've said it several times, but I continue to believe this is Harper's ideal scenario: Two months at Hagerstown, two to three months at Potomac and a stop at Harrisburg to end the year. Then, Harper starts next year at Harrisburg, heads to Syracuse in, say, May, and is up to the big leagues by summer. And if Super Two status is still in the next collective bargaining agreement (the current one expires after the World Series), the Nationals will have avoided that with Harper, too. This stuff doesn't get left to chance, and the Nationals aren't going to rush Harper for this year.