Bryce Harper Ready To Move Up The Ladder

Steve O Speak

Early in the season there looked to be a little concern for the Nationals top prospect Bryce Harper as his numbers were solid and even good, but not the fantastic numbers that people expected. Given that Harper should technically be finishing up his Senior year in high school right now, it was pretty impressive to have an OPS in the .700-.800’s in Low-A baseball. The problem is both Harper and fans alike expected and hoped for more. While a lot of Nationals officials and baseball pundits tried to temper expectations, having Harper hit .235 with 1 home run, 1 double and just 7 RBI’s in the first couple weeks into the season made people worry.

Thats is when the Nationals and their fans got a reason for Harper’s struggles; he couldn’t see. Harper and his manager realized he wasn’t seeing the ball well and he was fitted for contacts. Since Harper got his vision back he has been on an absolute tear. His slash line is now .396/.472/.712, and he has 11 doubles, 8 home runs and 30 RBI’s. His numbers are even better in May, in 10 games he is hitting .500 (21 of 42) with 7 extra base hits and an OPS of 1.305. Harper’s plate discipline has also been extremely advanced, striking out just 26 times while earning 16 walks. In May there is even a better difference as he has 6 K’s and 4 walks. Now the only question amongst Nats fans is when he will make the jump to High Single-A Potomac.

A month ago it seemed ridiculous to consider promoting Harper until the 2nd half of the season, if at all. Now it is no longer a question of ‘if’ but when, and I think that answer will be decided within the next week or two. Harper simply doesn’t have anything left to prove at Low-A Hagerstown, and needs to make the jump so he can work against a higher level of pitching prospect.

Harper has just dominated every aspect of Low-A ball and has shown the ability to hit both lefty and righty pitching:

Against lefties: .395/.447/.558: In 43 AB’s he has 17 hits (5 for extra bases), and 4 walks to 11 K’s

Against righties: .396/.488/.809: In 68 AB’s he has 27 hits, including 7 doubles and 7 HR’s, 12 walks to 15 K’s

Now obviously the numbers against righties are more impressive, but remember Harper is a LH hitter, so the fact that he is doing so well from that side is really impressive.

The Nationals have already been aggressive moving up some of their top prospects this season, most notably moving two members of Harpers 2010 draft class, Robbie Ray and A.J. Cole up to Low-A before giving them a shot at short-season ball. I would expect to see Harper promoted in the next two weeks with the likely target date May 23rd. The Potomac Nationals begin a 6 game homestand that day, which would make it the perfect time to bring Harper up. Potomac also has a huge 14 game home stretch in the beginning of June which could be a target as well. I Think though the more prudent move would be to move him up in 10 days, as it will allow him to see more advanced pitching (as well as help sell tickets at the Nationals closest affiliate). The earlier move could also potentially put Harper on target to advance to Double-A by August, which could make him a potential mid-year call up to the majors next season. That might be too aggressive of an approach, but the Nationals could have a pretty good team next season with Ryan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg back from injury, and Jordan Zimmermann, Jayson Werth, Ian Desmond, and Danny Espinosa forming a quality corps of players.

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