Spring has just recently sprung and we are already hearing gossip regarding the future of Bryce Harper. The media loves to build hype on hot topics because that’s their job, but with Harper it’s a real consideration given his talent level and the Nationals need for outfield help. Nobody is going to argue Harper’s potential and natural talent. He’s everything you want in a hitter, he’s a difference maker, a guy that can affect the number on the scoreboard and put a hole in it simultaneously. However I don’t think he should make the big club out of camp and here’s why.
He still has some development in his bat that only facing professionals can teach you. When Harper connects, he hits for power and drives the ball really well. The problem is that I’ve noticed a tendency to get away from a solid approach, and look to hit the ball out of the park. The problems he had with striking out last season were real. Although he made adjustments quickly, he gets away with approach issue because of his lightning quick hands and ability to make contact even when out in front. Not only is the quality of stuff better at the MLB level, but the aptitude is also advanced. We have seen thousands of prospects look like genius’ until they reach the savvy MLB pitching, and they seem overmatched. You don’t have to look too far from Washington to see a prime example in Alex Gordon.
The level of expectations is enormous. He’s not going to get away with failure, because there will be fans who have heard about this other worldly prospect coming to save the Nationals. Point being, Bryce knows how big of a deal he is. He has never had adversity in his baseball career. In front of 40,000 people the mistakes are amplified, especially for a kid who can’t even order a drink at the bar. The mental side of baseball is draining. Last year we saw Jesus Montero suddenly get away from what scouts loved, and there were reports he was “bored” with AAA. Even though he came up and mashed, he likely learned from the experience and was humbled by needing to wait his turn. Those little things don’t fill the stat sheet or help your fantasy team, but they’re real issues that can make or break a player.
With this off-season’s acquisitions, the Nationals are getting closer to being legitimate contenders in the NL East. Their rotation is looking more like San Francisco’s than the Mets, and their future infield is looking impressive. However in such a tough division they’re not in World Series contention just yet. They’re going to need a few more pieces to develop offensively before they’re taking on the Braves and Phillies. The best move is to let Harper develop physically, mechanically and most importantly mentally because the future is bright for Nats fans.
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