Nationals Baseball: Do you want Bryce to start the season with the team?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Do you want Bryce to start the season with the team?

He wants to.  Davey wants him to (mainly I assume because the team's lefty power is up to Ankiel, Espinosa's bad side, and LaRoche who slugged about .023 last year), Rizzo might not but seems to be warming to the idea.  But a year of Bryce now is likely a year less of Bryce down the road.

I'm sure you'd do it if you could have Jason Heyward's first year for Bryce, but I'm also sure you wouldn't do it if you'd follow up with Heyward's second. Jason had more impressive AA numbers than Bryce. Could another year of seasoning prevented the fall back and what was essentially a wasted year at best?

I don't think we can answer these questions, or at least we can't do it better than the guys watching him play everyday.  His minor league stats suggest he can hang in the majors, but do you want him just to hang or do you want him to thrive?  Rizzo seems to lean toward thrive.  He's the type that wants his young players to force the issue in each league before moving up.  Bryce hasn't done that just yet.

Looking from the other side, the Nats could certainly use Bryce and are on the cusp of being in the WC race wihtout needing luck.  A ROY type year from Bryce would surely put them square in WC contention, rather than the... not "outskirts"... maybe "suburbs",  where they are now.  It could also help him get acclimated for next season when we all expect one more big move to go from WC to division crown challengers.

And we still haven't talked about the elephant in the room, that just a couple months of minor league time now would ensure a whole season more before arbitration and save the Nationals millions of dollars.

Based on the situation and your gut, what say you?  If Bryce looks good, but not great, in Spring Training, do you want the Nats to bring him up to start the year?


cass said...

Bryce should not start the year with the team, no matter how good he is in Spring Training. Spring Training is too small of a sample size against erratic competition.

He needs more time in the minors to work on his fielding and baserunning, if nothing else. At very least, he should be kept in the minors for the few weeks it takes to delay free agency by a year.

I'd say put him in AA or AAA and see how he's doing by July. If he's destroying the minors, then bring him up. If not, wait till September.

David said...

Couldn't agree more. Bryce needs to start in the minors. He isn't ready for the bigs. For a guy who's supposed to be able to dominate at the major league level I want to see sustained dominance at each stop in the minors not just a 'well he did alright for some of that.'

cass said...

Oh, and this is a good excuse to link to my favorite FJB post:

Bryce Harper is not quite yet a a Michael Jordan, a Picasso, or a "cherished, special thing".

When/if he becomes so - when his play in the minors is so sublime that it boggles the imagination, when his routes to fly balls are perfect, when his bazooka arm actually manages to throw the ball to the appropriate fielder, and when every at-bat is a work of art that might produce a home run - then you bring him up, no matter what. Not now.

Strasburg had essentially nothing to learn in the minors. Harper does.

Bryan said...

I'll add my voice to those who say "start in the minors." If he tears it up, or its obvious he's better than what we have on the field, or you feel you really need to goose ticket sales, or stay in the playoff race (or, gasp, division race) and think he can help, fine, but I see no good reason to start him with the team and lose a year.

Mythical Monkey said...

My gut is that he should start in AA or AAA and force the issue. I know with the extra Wild Card, the Nats look like they could compete this year, but the team is going to shut down Strasburg just as things get interesting. So while 80-85 wins is realistic, it's probably not enough. Give Harper at least a few months to work his way up the ladder.

But I'm not running the team. If he hits .400 in Spring training and proves himself to be the best left-handed bat in the lineup, and Davy Johnson wants him on the team, it will be hard to send him down. I would anyway, but that's easy for me to say -- I don't have to answer to anybody.

Well, we'll know for sure in about six weeks.

Wally said...

As cass said, there are two dates that matter: (i) the few weeks it takes to gain an extra year of control - seems like a no brainer to wait for this to lapse before bringing him up, and (ii) the midyear delaying of Super Two status - I wouldn't take this one into account.

So, after acknowledging (i), I would bring him up as soon as they thought he could at least tread water, and not be overwhelmed. He is at least as good as the 3rd OF Rizzo chose to bring in (whomever wins that dubious distinction), he is a guy that shows an impressive ability to make adjustments, which he'll need to do at the MLB level, he actually fits a need in their lineup and we might as well get the whole thing started.

But I would base nothing on ST stats. They are meaningless, even the 'first few innings of games in the last two weeks'.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 said...

I am in the start him in the AA or AAA call him up whenever the arb/Super 2 deadline is passed. He will start slow in the majors as he has at every level he has played. Fans will be more patient in late June than in April.

Will you be in Viera this ST Harper? If so what games? I will be at the Atlana (Disney Stadium), and the Houston-St. Louis games at Space Coast.

Anonymous said...

For me the question is where he plays when he does come up. He has all the tools; I would like to see if a couple of months (or even a season) of Syracuse could train him up well enogh to be a CF. Whatever the result of that experiment, when spring training comes around next year we'll have not just Werth, Morse, and Harper, but Goodwin, Perez, Taylor, and Hood in the OF mix. Not to mention Rendon and maybe Walters in the INF. Davey will be in Hog Heaven.

Kevin Rusch said...

Someone might want to verify this for me - calling him up in June does NOT change his free agency time. It merely changes his salary schedule from "3 years at minimum, then 3 years of arbitration" to "2 years at minimum then 4 years of arbitration", correct? So he'll cost more, but he'll be in DC just as long. And if that's the case, you're looking at about a $12 million difference in total payments to him over 6 years (exchanging the 4th year of arbitration with the 3rd year at the league minimum.) If his availability and impact on the lineup keeps the team in contention through September, they'll make that much in ticket, beer, and jersey sales to easily cover the difference.

Anonymous said...

I agree. There is a LOT of confusion about super two status and whether or not that means an extra year before free agency. I think it's six years of team control, either 2/4arb or 3/3arb.

bdrube said...

Give him at least a couple of more months in the minors. Let him prove he's ready.

Pus, I'm pretty sure that if he comes up in June it WILL delay his free agency as he'll need six FULL years of service time in order to to be eligible.

michael k said...

To me, the only thing that complicates the decision is the Edwin Jackson signing. He's on for a one year deal and makes our rotation something fierce. Probably won't want to waste it waiting until 2013. That being said, 2013 is still the year, and I don't want to waste a FA year on Harper so he can do halfway decent in a year where the Nats probably won't make the playoffs anyway.

blovy8 said...

No. The extra year of control is too important, since all indications are that he would become a free agent as soon as he can. Even if he comes up and is Griffey, jr or A-Rod in value, that probably doesn't make up the difference between the Nats and the other better clubs in the NL. Sure, luck and career years play a role, but the are still going to have their best pitcher wearing a jacket all September and October.

brendan said...

Not at the beginning, no. Start him in Triple A. If he absolutely tears it up, bring him when rosters expand. Save his year of eligibility. He's gonna ask for the bank and then the keys to your car.

If he's playing well, and the Nationals are in the hunt for the wildcard (or somehow the division) then yes, perhaps bring him up early. But if there's no chance of the playoffs then there's no reason to waste a year.

Yes, you could say if he plays well then he should play all year because it gives the Nationals the best chance to compete and maybe you're right. But for the team as a whole I think their better shots of making it deep in the playoffs are years down the road, not this one.

Anonymous said...

I agree - leave him down to start the year. Let me argue a different reason why though - not just the extra year of control, which I agree is hugely important.

Will Harper actually help the 2012 team? I think there's an argument that says he actually won't. Harper said that a "ROY-like year could push them into contention," but I wonder- what would a ROY like year look like? I think Griffey's age-19 season is probably about the best you could expect out of age-19 Harper: .264/.329/.420 in 500 ABs. Maybe, you think he does a bit more power than that cause that's his thing. Ok, say .265/.330/.450. That would put Harper on the fringes of ROY contention.

But, how much would it help the offense? When he comes up, he most likely pushes LaRoche to the bench. If LaRoche is the 2010 version of himself, that's a .261/.320/.468 player being replaced by the near-identical line above. Harper should come up because you want him to get 400-500 MLB AB's under his belt, not because you think you have a shot at the playoffs in 2012.

The only way that doesn't is if they go the full year with Werth in CF. In that case, he's replacing the Cameron/Bernadina/Ankiel mess and that's clearly a plus. Not enough to push the offense into contention, though, I don't think.

Kenny B. said...

Unless something undeniably awesome happens in spring training, just wait. I really don't see much advantage in starting the season with him on the team other than possibly a couple of wins up front.

You might be trading a couple of early wins this year for a whole year of wins down the road. Sounds like a bad trade to me. Let him prove himself in the minors first.

Anonymous said...

I am yet another who says wait- let him prove it at AA or AAA.
Unless he does ridiculous at Spring TRaining. And by ridiculous I don't mean as in stats- too small a sample. But rather scouting- unless he's taking good routes in the OF and batting well and not swinging strikes at breaking ball and getting eaten by LHP then no.

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DezoPenguin said...

If LaRoche is playing anything close to his "normal" self, then there's no way Harper pushes him to the bench, not in this offense desperate for hitting. Either Werth moves to CF or to the bench, depending on Werth's performance.

Ultimately, unless his spring training demands that he start the year in the majors (and by "demands" I don't mean his bat--I mean, if he demonstrates mastery in the subtler aspects of the game, the things you put a man in the minor leagues to teach, fielding, baserunning, and above all good decision-making and situational awareness), it's better to preserve the year of control. He's probably not the difference between the Nats making the playoffs and them not making the playoffs. Better to call him up later in the year for exposure to the majors--if he deserves to get out of AAA--and teach him to be a better player in the future.

Ultimately, barring serious injury, this year should show some improvement in the team (the rotation is definitely better, the bullpen is no worse, and the offense, hopefully Zimmerman and LaRoche won't get hurt again, Werth will rebound, and Espi will take the next step? 'Cause unless I miss my guess, we're starting 2012 with the same eight regulars who were our anticipated starting eight in 2011), but not enough to justify pushing the rookie and sacrificing the long-term. A winning season is at last a plausible outcome, but we didn't make *enough* positive moves to justify making further desperation stabs.

Nattydread said...

Harper is still a diamond in the rough. Planning a Joe Namath celebrity life before a single MLB at bat? Such hubris often ends badly.

He needs to work on skills and judgement --- out of the spotlight --- for a month or two.

That being said, I'm on board with whatever Rizzo and Davey decide and I'd love to see a Harper ROY season if it turns out that way!