Pro Baseball: Harper promoted
By Joseph White
WASHINGTON ó Bryce Harperís impressive stats earned the teenager a Fourth of July promotion Monday, moving on to Double-A as part of the Washington Nationalsí measured approach with last yearís No. 1 overall draft pick.
Harper was set to make his debut Monday night for the Harrisburg Senators of the Eastern League. The 18-year-old outfielder has been a hitting sensation at Class-A Hagerstown, ranking among league leaders with a .318 average along with 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.
But the Nationals are sticking to their plan not to have Harper make his big league debut this year. General manager Mike Rizzo said Harper will spend the rest of the season in Double-A and then play in the Arizona Fall League. Rizzo said he also wants Harper to play in Triple-A, which means the youngster almost certainly wonít be on the Nationalsí opening day roster next year.
While the stats have looked good, Harper has had to adjust the rigors and routine of professional baseball and the maturity that goes along with it. He notoriously puckered a kiss toward a pitcher while rounding the bases after hitting a home run last month ó and was greeted with a hide-and-inside brushback pitch the next time he batted.
ěThe batting average was there,î Rizzo said. ěAnd the power, offensive production numbers are there, but a lot more goes into it than that. Heís a work in progress in his baserunning, his base stealing, his defensive play, the small intricate parts of the game. We feel heís progressed to the point where we want to see him do that at the next level.î
Harper last year signed a $9.9 million, five-year contract, the biggest payday for a drafted position player. Having accelerated his way through high school to become eligible for the draft, heís having work his way up slowly for the first time in his baseball life.
ěI know where he wants to be right now. If he left there, heíd want to be here,î Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. ěNot that he wouldnít be a quality callup, but thereís probably others more deserving.î