NEW YORK — Earlier today, Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said in a radio interview quite bluntly that Bryce Harper would not be a member of the Nationals major league team during the 2011 season.
He elaborated on those comments this afternoon, adding what he’d like to see from Harper and when a possible promotion even to Single-A Potomac may be in his future:
“We feel that his development is not ready to play in the big leagues,” Rizzo said, reiterating that the Nationals had been cautious on projecting him to the major leagues this year from the start.
“The moment he’s ready, when we believe he’s ready, he’ll be in the big leagues if he’s earned it and he’s ready to play in the big leagues and to stay in the big leagues.
“All these steps are important, but the next step is the most important decision we have to make. Once he’s graduated from that step, we’ll take it to the next level.”
Rizzo, who has not seen Harper himself since he’s been playing at Single-A Hagerstown this season — and lighting the world on fire with a .366 batting average, .448 on-base percentage, .657 slugging percentage and ridiculous 1.015 OPS. He’s hit nine home runs, driven in 31, stolen six bases (and been caught stealing three times) and recently wrapped up an 18-game hitting streak.
It’s been impressive, but it hasn’t rushed the Nationals into promoting him.
“We like the adjustments he’s made at the plate,” Rizzo said. “We like the adjustments he’s made specifically against left-handed pitching, which were points of emphasis going into Hagerstown. His defense in the outfield, baserunning, all the little things that come into play, is what we wanted him to work on at that level. He’s in the process of working on it, and he’s doing great. He’s at the point where he’s playing really, really well there.
“It’s not any one thing (we need to see before promoting him). It’s just an overall evaluation of where he’s at during the season and that type of thing. I think a lot of it stems on his development on the defensive side of it in the outfield.”
To that end, Harper is going to get work at all three outfield positions eventually but has been primarily playing in right field. Four out of six days, Rizzo said, he plays right field and two days he plays in center field.
“Center field is an important process,” Rizzo said. “Just because it gives you the full landscape of seeing the bat off the ball. He’s adjusted well to both positions and we’re going to introduce him to left field a little bit also.”