Bryce Harper

It shouldn't be long before Harper is wearing a hat with a curly 'W' on it everyday. Photo Courtesy Christian Petersen/Getty Images North America

He is one of the most hyped baseball prospects in the history of the sport. As a high school student, he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated. He can throw out a runner at second from his knees just as easily as he can break 90 MPH with his fastball and, on top of it all, he’s being groomed to be an outfielder. He already holds the record for the longest home run ever hit at Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay’s home field)… and he’s 19 years old.

So it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the farthest the professional baseball player got last year was AA ball. The Nationals, being credited this offseason as having MLB’s best farm system, know a thing or two about bringing prospects up the right way.
They drafted, signed, and groomed Ryan Zimmerman into one of the best third basemen in the league, and that was their early work. Their late work most noticeably includes Stephen Strasburg, another youngster who has gotten immense hype and was drafted by the Nats the year before Harper. He lost a little power on his pitches after undergoing the infamous Tommy John surgery, but figures to still be the number two man in the Nationals rotation behind “Nat Gio” Gonzalez, if not the staff’s ace himself.
So with all this cream of talent rising to the top of the Nationals’ farm system, the question becomes is there a place for Bryce? In a new story on MLB.com, the young prospect tells the website that he is confident he can make the 25-man active roster out of Spring Training.
Bryce Harper

There is no doubt the physical skills are there for Harper. The question is whether the outspoken teenager can mature in time for 'the show' this season. Photo courtesy Greg Fiume/Getty Images North America

Of course, it certainly doesn’t hurt that manager Davey Johnson is pulling for him. He has already said he plans on giving Harper every ounce of opportunity during the spring and has asked Nationals GM Mike Rizzo to keep an open mind about the youngster making ‘The Show’ as early as April.

Still, one can’t ignore just how young Bryce Harper is. If he were your average-Joe teenager, he’d probably be in his sophomore year of college right now. Instead, he hopes to be in a lineup with Jayson Werth and Michael Morse. Two seasons ago, Atlanta brought in their 21-year-old sensation, Jason Heyward, who struggled to live up to the immense hype placed on him all preseason, which is as much the hype’s fault as it is his.
In his 109 games between Class A Hagerstown and AA Harrisburg, Harper hit just shy of .300 (.297) and knocked in 58 runs. In the Arizona Fall League last year, he hit six home runs in only 93 at-bats. At the very least, Bryce Harper has earned the right to see what he can do in Triple-A.
But if fans and the skipper had their way, Harper would be swinging his pine against the Cubs when Washington plays them to open their season on April 5th. And, logistically, there is a spot for him in the Nationals starting nine. Moving Jayson Werth over to Centerfield would free up the right corner for Bryce, with last year’s breakout player, Michael Morse, likely playing left.
To secure that spot, though, Harper will have to win out a position battle with Roger Bernadina, who would likely play center if Harper doesn’t make the club. A lightning rod on the base paths, Bernadina is a supremely underrated weapon in Washington’s arsenal and is the closest thing to an ideal lead off hitter the club currently has. Whoever does make the outfield out of spring training isn’t going to be able to slump off during the season with a talented fourth outfielder nipping at their heels for playing time.
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