Read the updated story with quotes from Mike Rizzo on CSNwashington.com
Bryce Harper will celebrate his 18th birthday Saturday at home in Las Vegas. Then he'll make the short trip to Scottsdale, Ariz., and immediately start facing the toughest competition of his brief baseball career.
The Washington Nationals have added the No. 1 draft pick to their roster of players participating in the Arizona Fall League, an elite "finishing school" generally reserved for top prospects who have already played at the Class AA or Class AAA level, a club official confirmed this afternoon.
Harper, of course, has yet to play at any official minor-league level, aside from about three weeks in Viera, Fla., at the instructional league. But Nationals officials believe the catcher-turned-outfielder needs to get as much playing experience as he can this offseason, so they're sending him to Arizona to serve as a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions' "taxi squad."
AFL teams play six games per week, but taxi squad members are only allowed to play on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Thus, Harper's playing time will be limited. Club officials, though, believe the experience will be worth it, both on the field facing pitchers on the verge of reaching the big leagues and in the clubhouse socializing alongside teammates who are anywhere from four to eight years older than him.