Harper signed a five-year, $9.9 million contract with the Nationals, a record for a non-pitcher signed out of the draft who had not become a free agent.
Keeping Harper through April would ensure that he couldn’t become a free agent until after the 2018 season. If he stays in Syracuse through June, that would allow Washington to delay his ability to go to arbitration for one year and give the parent club more salary control.
“I’m just going to push him, but at the same time keep my arms around him,” Beasley said. “He’s 19. As grown a man as he may look on the outside, he’s still a young kid on the inside, and I have to be mindful of that and protect him as much as I can, teach him and nurture him at the same time. But push him to play the game and to learn to get better each and every day.
“We’ll see how he adjusts to this level of baseball. He’s a gifted young man. I guess I’ll let his play speak for itself.”
So far, Harper’s play has been pretty good as a pro. Last year, he played in 109 minor league games before a hamstring injury in August ended his season. He finished with a .297 average, 17 homers and 58 RBIs in 387 at-bats.
“He’s got a great attitude, loves to work hard. I’ve just seen him mature,” said Chiefs infielder Tyler Moore, who played with Harper in Harrisburg last season. “He’s a great person, plays the game hard, a great teammate. I’ve got nothing but positive things to say about him. I’m looking forward to watching him grow even more.”
The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Harper will have to convince the Nationals he’s ready for major league pitching. In spring training, he missed time with a calf injury and struck out 11 times in 28 at-bats.
“I was a little out of whack in big league spring training with my swing, my hands,” Harper said. “I think the best thing was me getting sent down to Triple A and really getting on that grind every day of playing, get my routine back. I think that’s the biggest thing.
“When I was up there, I tried to work as hard as I could every single day, but I was trying to do too much, getting a hit every single day. Now, it made me calm down and really stay within myself, stay with my game. I have a lot of things to work on. This is just another steppingstone.”
Harper is the second No. 1 pick of the Nationals to play in Syracuse, following hard-throwing right-hander Stephen Strasburg, who created a big-time buzz in his brief stay here.
A franchise-record crowd of 13,777 turned out for Strasburg’s debut in Syracuse nearly two years ago, a month before the Nationals inked Harper. In two of his International League starts at home for the Chiefs, the Nationals’ top minor-league affiliate, Strasburg attracted the biggest baseball crowds in the history of this city — including 13,766 for his debut.
On this day, an announced crowd of 6,178 souls braved the raw, early spring day.