The Washington Nationals caught many by surprise yesterday by announcing that the top prospect in baseball, Bryce Harper, is being promoted to the Majors and will be on the roster for their game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Up to this point, Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo has taken a relatively conservative approach to Harper’s development.
This is entirely understandable considering Harper’s potential and the fact that he is still only 19 years old. Ryan Zimmerman’s injury, alongside the continued absence of Mike Morse and the paltry contributions by those manning left field so far this season, have made Rizzo turn to Harper ahead of schedule, much to manager Davey Johnson’s obvious delight.
Harper hasn’t experienced much failure in his career so far and there is a slight risk that promoting him before he’s quite ready could backfire on the Nationals. Harper is by all accounts a very cocksure individual and that unshakeable confidence could be put to a harsh test if things don’t go according to plan while all the bright lights are shining squarely on him.
I wouldn’t be too concerned about it if I were a Nationals fan. Failure is a part of all sports, particularly at the highest level (just ask Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo after their crucial penalty kick misses this week). Every player has to find a way to cope with the disappointments and they will normally only gain that experience by going through some tough times and coming out the other side.
Maybe Harper still needs to work on some parts of his game, from a technical standpoint rather than mental, and it will be more difficult to do so at the Big League level. Only time will tell on that score, but I’m inclined to believe that if he’s as talented and as committed to being the best as everyone says he is, he will make the adjustments necessary in due course.
That might not fit with the clear-cut story some were hoping for – a Roy of the Rovers dreamlike path to greatness or a calamitous fall from grace – but it’s the natural course he’s likely to follow and the end destination could well still be a place as one of the biggest stars in the game.
There’s no absolute guarantee that Harper will make his debut tonight, but after all the hoopla there’s a very good chance he will be in the starting lineup. In any case, Stephen Strasburg is on the mound for Washington and Matt Kemp’s form so far suggests he’s intent on winning the MVP award he narrowly missed out on last year, so there are two compelling reasons to follow the game regardless.
First pitch in the Nationals-Dodgers game is set for 2.10 a.m., so you can either follow it live and then catch up on the sleep later, or MLB.TV subscribers can watch the game back at a more convenient time on Sunday morning.
Harper wasn’t the only top prospect called up to the Majors yesterday. The Angels announced that outfielder Mike Trout will be re-joining the Big League squad and he could be in the starting line-up against the Indians today in one of the six early contests.
18.05. LA Angels at Cleveland (Haren – Gomez)
18.05. Milwaukee at St. Louis (Estrada – Lohse)
18.10. Kansas City at Minnesota (Chen – Marquis) *ESPN America
21.05. Detroit at NY Yankees (Smyly – Garcia)
21.07. Seattle at Toronto (Millwood – Morrow)
21.10. Houston at Cincinnati (Harrell – Cueto)
All times are in BST.
The Cardinals used an eight-run third inning to blast past the Brewers 13-1 yesterday to give them an early season four-game lead at the top of the NL Central. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter scooted home on a passed ball to give the Yankees a walk-off win against the Tigers, dealing Detroit their fifth straight loss. Things aren’t going well for Jim Leyland’s team as their losing sequence has combined with Delmon Young getting himself in trouble off the field. Today would be a good day for them to steady the ship with a victory and Freddy Garcia might be just the man to do it against, as he hasn’t pitched well for the Yankees so far this season.
All of these games are available to watch live via the MLB.TV subscription at MLB.com. ESPN America is showing the Royals-Twins game from 18.00. The full schedule for today’s games can be found on MLB.com.