Though Bryce Harper's first two weeks at Class AAA have left plenty to be desired, the Nationals aren't concerned in the least about their top prospect's development.
Harper ended play today with a .232 average and only one RBI in 14 games for Syracuse, but slow starts are nothing new for the 19-year-old outfielder, who has struggled early at every stop he's made in the Nationals' farm system the last two seasons.
General manager Mike Rizzo said he's not surprised Harper has needed some time to get used to Class AAA pitching.
"I think it's an adjustment period for him," Rizzo said before tonight's game against the Astros. "It's a different kind of pitching than he's ever had in the minor leagues. You've got some hard-throwing prospects, and you also have some veteran, AAA/AAAA type of pitchers that can really pitch and command their stuff. They're not the blazing fastballs, but they try to get you out different ways."
Harper has particularly struggled against left-handed pitching, with only three hits in 19 at-bats to date.
"He's got a good approach," Rizzo said. "He's still hitting the ball very, very hard. He'll make his adjustments. I'm not too concerned about it."
The Nationals are pleased with Harper's progress in center field, where he plays roughly two-thirds of the time. He does have three errors in 14 games: two while playing center field, one while playing right field.
"He's taken good routes," Rizzo said. "His throwing is really improved. His accuracy in throwing has improved."
Though the Nationals need only wait one more week to delay Harper from becoming a free agent until after the 2018 season, there's no reason to believe he'll be coming to Washington in the immediate future. There are, however, a couple other position players at Syracuse whose early season performances could merit a promotion.
First baseman Tyler Moore has been tearing up the International League, posting a .296 average, five homers and 14 RBI already in 14 games. The organization's top power hitter with 31 home runs in both 2010 and 2011, Moore has begun seeing some action in left field; he made his second start there this afternoon.
"We feel that will give him a little more versatility," Rizzo said. "He's a good, potent, right-handed bat that we see helping us up here in the future. So we're trying to give him as much versatility as we can."
Outfielder Corey Brown, meanwhile, has gotten off to a strong start with the Chiefs; after going 2-for-6 with a homer today, he's now hitting .278 with a .426 on-base percentage.
"He's got a good gameplan at the plate now," Rizzo said. "They've tweaked his approach, his mechanics, a little bit over the course of last season and through spring training. And he's really come a long way, defensively and offensively."