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Posted at 11:23 AM ET, 11/17/2010

Bryce Harper likely to start 2011 in Class A Hagerstown

By Adam Kilgore

First overall pick Bryce Harper, currently tearing up the Arizona Fall League, a league packed with the most promising prospects in baseball, will begin the season in Class A Hagerstown, General Mike Rizzo said last night. Rizzo had said Harper would begin in Class A, but hadn't specified if he would begin in High-A Potomac or Low-A Hagerstown.

In Hagerstown, Harper would play for new manager Brian Daubach, a former Red Sox slugger. Rizzo did not marry Harper to starting in Hagerstown, but the low level would allow Harper, 18, to develop against easier competition. The Nationals like to see their prospects dominate a level before advancing, such as when Stephen Strasburg began last year at Class AA Harrisburg despite obviously possessing the talent to pitch at a higher class.

"I would assume [Harper] starts in Hagerstown," Rizzo said. "That could change. If the minor league season opened today, it would be Hagerstown. I think he needs to start in a comfortable position for him and succeed and move on."

Later today, Harper will play his ninth game in the fall league. He is hitting .323/.400/.613 (average/on-base/slugging) with one home run, four walks and 10 strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Harper has also impressed scouts with his arm strength in right field.

The Nationals took somewhat of a risk assigning Harper to the fall league, given his dearth of experience and age -- he became the second-youngest player, by less than a week, to play in the AFL. Rizzo, though, always felt comfortable with Harper fitting in.

"He makes those decisions pretty easy," Rizzo said. "It's nice that he's doing well, but he was out there not only for the Wednesdays and Saturdays that he plays, but for the other five days a week that he didn't play. Those are as important or more important as far as his development. He's with those professional players. Many of those players will be in the big leagues in 2011."

Harper can play only on Wednesday or Saturday because he is a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions "taxi squad." He still dresses for all games and participates in all pregame activities.

By Adam Kilgore  | November 17, 2010; 11:23 AM ET
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Next: Nationals have discussions with Carl Pavano


Potomac by June, Harrisburg by August, Washington by June 2012, DL by September 2012 (kidding) ....

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 17, 2010 11:49 AM | Report abuse

He will be in Potomac, soon enough, say June. Hope the kid starts Saturday in the Championship Game. Although, Burgess has made a late "season" surge. Maybe one of them can DH.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | November 17, 2010 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Hagerstown/Potomac split in 2011 seems likely. Start 2012 in Harrisburg, after AS break head to Syracuse or DC depending on first half perfomance. It'll be here before you know it.

Posted by: 3B11 | November 17, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Will MLB Network be televising the AFL championship game?

Posted by: FeelWood | November 17, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Must be nice to be so wise as to know when and how Harper will advance. Same people are probably millionaires from the stock market.

Posted by: jeadpt | November 17, 2010 12:03 PM | Report abuse

"Maybe one of them can DH."

Adhardwick, you know the Nats are in the National League, which doesn't have a DH, right?

Posted by: baskert | November 17, 2010 12:24 PM | Report abuse

How was it a "risk" to send Harper to the Fall League? It makes no sense. The kid is not some delicate piece of art, he's a ball player.

Why do we always have to have players start someplace where they can succeed first and then move on? All Harper has ever done is succeed. Why not start Harper someplace where he'll be challenged every day? Where he'll have to work very hard at his craft from day one to get success, not just have it come becasue his talent surpasses the crowd he is then among. Just put the kid in Harrisburg. Let him start seeing better pitchers, better defenses -- accelerate his development, don't waste him hitting .425 in the low minors.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 17, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse

You start him where he can have success because he is an 18 year old kid, neither physically or psychologically mature yet. Makes sense to me. Doesn't mean he can't advance quickly, and likely will.

And thanks for the flurry of posts, AK.

Posted by: NatsFly | November 17, 2010 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Hagerstown/Potomac split in 2011 seems likely. Start 2012 in Harrisburg, after AS break head to Syracuse or DC depending on first half perfomance. It'll be here before you know it.

Posted by: 3B11 | November 17, 2010 12:00 PM

Like you, I think he'll play in an MLB game before he turns 20. I'd put $5 on the long odds of Hagerstown/Potomac/Harrisburg in 2011 then Syracuse/Washington pre-AS break in 2012.

Posted by: Kev29 | November 17, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

So are we worried that he may break down emotionally if he does not crush whatever pitching he faces from day one? Why is A Ball different to the guy than AA Ball, in terms of his age?

Guys have been in the Bigs as teens (Pudge was one and he was learning a new language). I think that the kid-gloves do not need to be on this guy, who has been on a psychological development fast track since he was 12.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 17, 2010 1:29 PM | Report abuse

No, I'm not worried about Harper. I just see no up side with rushing things. I expect to see him in the bigs in his teens. I simply see nothing wrong with starting him low if management thinks that is how he can develop best. They are watching carefully--remember they initially said he wouldn't go to AFL, then put him on the taxi squad when he did well in the instructional league.

Not that I'm a management apologist: not signing Dunn in July, now THAT was dumb. Bringing a kid along carefully, that makes sense.

Posted by: NatsFly | November 17, 2010 1:47 PM | Report abuse

NatsFly - -I hear you. I want them to be prudent with the kid's development, of course. I just think that as a general societal indictment needing a young talent to be successful all along the way is not really likely to get him/her more prepared for when it will be much, much harder in real life (MLB in this case). I think that Harper should be proving he can play against AA players, which is likely to be the case. Time he spends mashing in A ball is wasted, if he really is going to be appearing on Half Street before he's 20.

And not signing Dunn in the Spring or not trading him at the deadline makes me wonder if Rizzo should have been proving he could succeed and move on as a GM in some minor league sompleace for a while before he got the gig with the big club. Terrible stuff.

Posted by: dfh21 | November 17, 2010 2:12 PM | Report abuse

"Adam Dunn is moving closer to a deal, maybe with the Tigers, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. SI's Jon Heyman tweets that Dunn and the Tigers are in serious talks."

--- Bitter.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | November 17, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Some asked: Will MLB Network be televising the AFL championship game?

Me: Yes they will, I think the game starts at 2:30PM EST.

Posted by: tcostant | November 17, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

10 strike outs in 31 at bats. Adam Dunn part deux.

Posted by: brianbu | November 17, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

MLBTR is passing on the rumor that Dunn is in "serious" negotiations with the Tigers and they conjecture that he would be signed to play LF. (I assume they mean the position LF, not the patch of lawn)

Posted by: natbiscuits | November 17, 2010 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Latest from MLBTR: "2:04pm: ESPN's Jerry Crasnick tweets that a source says talk about Dunn going to the Tigers is "way too premature." Detroit likes the first baseman/outfielder/DH, but they're not that far along in talks."

Translation: Dunn's agent has not said "four years" yet.

Posted by: FeelWood | November 17, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Plenty of folks, including my wife, disagree with me on this, but I don't believe for a New York Second that Bryce Harper will start next yeat in Hagerstown, barring a major tail off in Spring Training. I know it's a small sample size, but he has an OPS over 1.000 against the best talent not already in MLB. He has also displayed a CANNON of an arm, gunning down one runner tagging up from third and nearly nailing another tagging from second on a deep fly to right. I felt this way even before I went to Arizona and actually watched Bryce Harper, though seeing him on the field and interacting with his teammates and coaches reinforces it.

Put simply, Low A Hagerstown holds zero challenge for Harper. I can see Potomac, since its very close to DC and team officials can just drive over, or he can drive up to Nationals Park on P-Nats off days. I suspect he would be flat-out dominant there also. If Rizzo really wants to see Bryce dominate, I think the answer is Potomac.

If, however, the club wants to actually challenge young Mr. Harper, the answer is likely AA Harrisburg. The competition would prove more challenging, but would still be below that against which he is succeeding right now, while still knocking off the rust from months of baseball inactivity.

From what I could see, Bryce Harper is someone really special: the incredibly talented player with an internal fire, an innate drive to push himself and the work ethic to make himself the best he can be. Unless the front office -- and I wouldn't blame them too much -- decides that they will not call him up in 2011 under any circumstances, I would not be surprised to see Bryce turn next September at Nationals Park into HarperFest.

Posted by: MJPinDC | November 17, 2010 4:19 PM | Report abuse

"The Nationals like to see their prospects dominate a level before advancing..."

Thanks for the laugh, Kilgore.

Posted by: CoverageisLacking | November 17, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

MJP--interesting take from one who has actually seen Harper in AZ. Thanks for posting.

Posted by: NatsFly | November 17, 2010 5:26 PM | Report abuse

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