Bryce Harper injury: Nationals place OF on disabled list with thumb strain, possible ligament damage

Scott Cunningham

Like Ryan Zimmerman, Harper suffered the injury sliding into a base. He could miss more time than the minimum 15 days.

Apparently, Bryce Harper's thumb injury "doesn't look good."

The 21-year-old All Star injured his left thumb sliding into third base on Friday, and after visiting a specialist on Saturday, it looks like he might be out of the Nationals lineup for some time. The Washington Post's Adam Kilgore reports that the Nats' concern is that the issue could lead to the same kind of surgery -- and recovery time -- that will cost Angels' slugger Josh Hamilton six to eight weeks.

Harper hopes to miss the minimum amount of time, which would only be 10 more games because of Washington's schedule.

"Hopefully, the 15 days go back and I’ll get back out there. We’ll see how I feel in 15. … I’m not really worried too much. I’m just trying to get my treatment and see where I’m at."

Washington recalled outfielder Steven Souza, Jr. from Triple-A Syracuse, but free agent acquisition Nate McLouth is the most likely to fill in on a regular basis. The club picked up McLouth after he put together an excellent season with Baltimore last year, hitting .258/.329/.399 with four home runs and 30 stolen bases. He has just 31 at bats so far in 2014, but that's certain to change -- for the next two weeks at least. He's hitting .097/.282/.129 with just one extra-base hit so far, but the sample size is too small for the Nats to begin worrying about him.

Nate McLouth is expected to fill in for the injured Bryce Harper. Photo: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

McLouth, a left-handed hitter, could platoon with Souza, who hits from the right side -- especially if his average doesn't rise above .100 soon. Baseball America has Souza listed as the Nats' 10th-best prospect, and Federal Baseball has him ranked sixth in their top 50.

Souza's upside is tremendous, he has the ability to hit for power, average, and he has decent on base skills. His ability to hit for average might not translate to the majors, as he still has an issue with strikeouts. He also features good speed, and while he is best in the corners, he has the ability to play center in a pinch. I think his upside is a starting CF, but more realistically I think you're looking at someone who will become a great 4th OF.

With the ceiling of a fourth outfielder, Souza would seem to be the next iteration of McLouth -- perhaps more like the 2008-09 version though, since he has "65 raw power," according to Baseball America.

Either way, Washington will be glad to get Harper healthy and back into the lineup, but in his absence, the Nationals could do worse.

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