While it seems as if Nationals phenom Bryce Harper will get every chance to prove he can make the major league squad out of spring training at age 19, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince says he should start 2012 in Triple-A. He explains:
Harper needs real time in the real grind that is a professional season. He’s played just 37 games above the Class A level, and his first full season was cut short by a hamstring injury suffered in early August. It’s not merely about some clichéd notion of “paying your dues”; it’s also about, you know, proving you can hit a big league caliber breaking ball. Harper has yet to face one.
And what of those dues? Would Harper be embraced in his own clubhouse if promoted prematurely, or would he face backlash from guys who breathed in the bus fumes that line the long road to the Majors?
Castrovince notes that players like Dwight Gooden and Ken Griffey Jr. made the majors at 19 and had success. It should be mentioned that Gooden’s career was later derailed; Griffey’s should have him on a dais at the Hall of Fame in five years or so.
The Nationals are likely to be an improved team, possibly a contender, without Harper. With him, they’ll have to play Jayson Werth out of position in center field. Castrovince’s point, which also includes a mention of ignoring spring training stats due to their very nature, is valid.
But Davey Johnson was the manager who insisted Gooden was ready at 19. Now, Johnson will have input into the same decision regarding Harper. It won’t be an easy call.