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The start of Bryce Harper's career and his Arizona Fall League chances

On Thursday, first overall pick Bryce Harper will arrive with the rest of the Nationals' newest tier of prospects in Viera, Fla. for the Florida instructional league and his first baseball as a professional.

Harper's adjustment to his phase of professional baseball will help determine if the Nationals choose to send him to the Arizona Fall League, which begins Oct. 12. The Nationals left a spot open for Harper, but they are still weighing his readiness and the risk. The Nationals do not want to restrict Harper, but they also do not want failure to tinge his first pro experience.

His unique situation - utterly dominant enough to win the Golden Spikes Award as college baseball's best player, yet still only 17 - makes the decision delicate for the Nationals. The competition for Harper there will be an immense leap from what he faced in college. Last year, Stephen Strasburg, Drew Storen, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Ian Kennedy and Andrew Miller, among other current big leaguers, pitched in the league. Buster Posey, Mike Stanton and Jason Heyward played.

Of course, Harper could be able to handle it and the challenge may be best for his development - this is the prodigy who blasted 31 homers with a wooden bat last year and crushed one to the third deck at Nationals Park during batting practice. Tyler Hanks is a pitcher who played with Harper at the College of Southern Nevada whom the Nationals drafted and sent to the Gulf Coast League. Having played with Harper, Hanks said "he'd absolutely dominate" the GCL.

If the Nationals decide Harper is ready for the Arizona Fall League, they would still need approval from Major League Baseball. Every team gets two "A ball exceptions" - players who have yet to reach Class AA - for their seven-man AFL roster. The Nationals used them on second-round pick Sammy Solis, a left-handed starting pitcher, and Potomac catcher Derek Norris. But if Nationals want Harper to play and the league determines Harper's inclusion would be "good for baseball," then MLB would grant another exemption to the Nationals.

Just as a refresher, here's who the Nationals have already selected to play in the AFL:

Adam Carr, P
Sammy Solis, P
Cole Kimball, P
Derek Norris, C
Stephen Lombardozzi, 2B
Michael Burgess, OF

By Adam Kilgore  |  September 15, 2010; 11:50 AM ET
 
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Comments

This could be make of break for Burgess. He improved his BA at some expense of his power. I expect Harper to do well in FL and be in AFL for "the good of baseball."

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | September 15, 2010 2:33 PM | Report abuse

Actually Burgess improved both his average and his power. If I am not mistaken his isolated power improved from .154 to .173, which is decent I think, and his average improved by 30 points. His strikeouts were down a bit too.

I think he is progressing pretty well. He seems to be learning to hit a bit better, but all the same he is not setting the world on fire. Still only 21 though and at AA. About on target I'd say. He still looks like a potential big league player to me. I think his defense is supposed to be good, especially his arm.

It'll be interesting to see how he does in the Arizona Fall League.

Posted by: autobits | September 15, 2010 6:33 PM | Report abuse

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