Bryce Harper makes anticipated D.C. debut tonight
After spending just 129 games in the minor leagues since 2011, the highly touted prospect was called up late last week and will look to make a splash in front of his home crowd for the first time Tuesday night when the Nats host the Arizona Diamondbacks. So how excited will Washington fans be? I’m guessing ecstatic, especially after how thrilled they were when starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg made his debut with the club in 2010.
But will all the hype be warranted? Strasburg certainly proved that he could live up to very high expectations. Now the ball is in Harper’s court to do the same. Will he take the ball and run with it or be a project in the making?
It’s obvious that the Nationals think he is ready to produce now. And one really can’t argue with Washington after Harper hit .290 with 18 home runs, 61 RBIs and 27 stolen bases in his 129 games in the minor leagues. Not too shabby for a player who put up those numbers as a teenager.
But the minor leagues are a lot different than what Harper is about to go up against. Pitchers are more fierce and the catchers he’ll run against have bigger guns. Yet it’s hard to go against an outfielder who became the youngest player to make his major league debut since Felix Hernandez did so in 2005. Given, Hernandez is a pitcher and it will be an entirely different ball game for Harper as a major league hitter, but you have to believe in the guy because of what he has already accomplished at such a young age.
Harper zoomed through high school and traveling leagues, making his name as a rapidly climbing MLB prospect in his mid-teens. He then skipped his final two seasons at Las Vegas High to attend the College of Southern Nevada, a junior college where he holds five regular season records (home runs, RBI, hits, slugging percentage and total bases). And the College of Southern Nevada isn’t your average JUCO. It’s a program that has achieved a 525-195 (.729 winning percentage) record during the past 10 years. And in Harper’s final season with the Coyotes in 2010, the squad recorded its second-highest tally for wins (52), set a program record for home runs (90), and ranked third in the program’s history for team RBIs (480). There’s no doubt that Harper was a huge part of that phenomenal 2010 College of Southern Nevada team.
One really can’t compare junior college ball to the major leagues, but if Harper turns out to be that impact player for the Nationals, all baseball fans will witness an incredible star for the next 20 years. He may still need to develop, but you cant blame Washington for brining him up. They need another big bat after placing third baseman Ryan Zimmerman on the disabled list and the squad is perhaps the hottest team in the National League right now, so they can gamble a bit.
Harper will need that big league experience early if he wants to become the next MLB superstar. And this season seems to be the perfect time for him to begin his quest for Cooperstown.