Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rizzo: Harper could be Nats' long-term CF

US Presswire photo
The Nationals want Bryce Harper to work in center field at Class AAA Syracuse.
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Mike Rizzo doesn't know if Bryce Harper will be able to play center field for the majority of his big-league career. But the Nationals general manager wants to find out if the 19-year-old prospect can handle the position.

So the recently demoted Harper will spend the majority of his time at Class AAA Syracuse manning the middle of the Chiefs' outfield as the organization decides whether he can eventually do it at the major-league level.

"Let's make an evaluation, see how he does," Rizzo said before tonight's game against the Mets. "If he handles it and we think he's a long-term answer for us in center, he'll certainly be the long-term answer. If we feel he can handle the position at the major-league level now, but if we're looking for better down the road, then we'll keep that in mind, too."

In his first comments since Harper was demoted late Sunday afternoon, Rizzo had nothing but glowing reviews of baseball's premier prospect. Harper hit .286 (8-for-28) with two doubles in nine total Grapefruit League games, though he struggled after missing six days with a calf injury, finishing 3-for-17 with nine strikeouts over his final five games.

Harper particularly had trouble facing some tough left-handers, though that didn't raise any red flags among the Nationals' brass.

"I see a guy that's dangerous against lefties and righties," Rizzo said. "He doesn't give a bit against left-handed pitching. He's always had success against left-handers, and I don't see that changing."

As for the position switch, the Nationals believe Harper is physically equipped to man center field for now. But there's actually some concern he could become too big for the position.

"This is a 19-year-old man that may not be done growing," Rizzo said. "He gained an inch and about 15 pounds from this time last year. His brother's 6-foot-6. We don't know if he'll outgrow the position just physically."

Having played only 37 games at Class AA late last season, some have questioned whether the Nationals would have been better off sending the kid back to Harrisburg for some more seasoning. Rizzo, though, insisted Class AAA is the right level for Harper right now.

"He showed that he can handle Double-A pitching just fine," the GM said. "And then he went to the [Arizona] Fall League and he handled that level. I always see that as Triple-A/accelerated Double-A. He had no problem there. I don't see the adjustment being that he's going to be over his skis as a Triple-A player."


Gonat said...

Theophilus said...
Anyway, Bourgeois is one less bum for people on this blog to obsess about.

March 20, 2012 4:59 PM

Have you seen Bourgeois's stats against LH pitching? The guy puts up All Star numbers. Have you seen his numbers when he isn't leading off? He puts up All Star numbers.

Houston got rid of him like the Nats got rid of Nyjer Morgan. Both are platoon types of players. There was a need for him to platoon with Ankiel.

Not sure why you think he's a BUM.

Anonymous said...

Rizzo kills me, who does he think that he's folling? The WORLD knows that Bryce Harper is not the long terms answer at CF. I bet that the Great Bryce Harper as CF Experiment will end at some point that makes sure Bryce is still farming in about the third week of June when his Super Two status melts away and the club saves itself something like $14M down the road for an arb year (the savings approximation according to Cameron of ESPN). I am surprised Rizzo isn't asking the kid to learn to pitch to stall for more time to save the money, he might just master CF too quickly. Call me a cynic all you want. The Lerners love their money as much or more than the next ownership group does.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, who is Rizzo FOLLING?

Dr Trea (formerly #werthquake) said...

he's no bum..he's a guy i really wanted us to get actually

NatsLady said...

I don't see what's wrong with saving $14 million that can potentially be spent on other players, if it just means Harper is in AAA for an extra 2-3 months. I was all for "damn the torpedoes" and keeping Harper up if he had been ANYWHERE near ready. But he clearly is not, so a baseball decision is made to send him down. So why not make the financial decision to keep him there?

Anonymous said...

Sorry this is unrelated but I have tickets to the 1 oclock game tomorrow in Viera against the Braves, and I'd enjoy going early to see the guys practice up close. I'm wondering if they hold practices on the neighboring practice fields or whether on game days they'll almost exclusively be in the stadium. If any of you know that'd be great, I'm also looking for recommendations on the time that I should arrive at the complex. Thanks!

Theophilus said...

In one breath you say Astros got rid of Bourgeois for the same reason the Nats got rid of Morgan, then in the next you say he is "not a bum?" Which is it? His overall nos., whatever his "splits," say "bum." You complain about Ankiel or Bernadina in CF then want to give value for a guy who presents the same issues from the other side of the plate. I'm in favor of platooning as much as the next guy but why on earth are so many people willing to give away valuable parts (which, at the moment, even Lannan is, and Flores certainly is) in exchange for half a player? And then spend the next twelve months agitating for a "RH-hitting LO spot CF" who can start 162 games?

Sunderland said...

That's me standing next to Theophilus.

Gonat said...

Yes, Rizzo wasn't willing to deal with Nyjer who couldn't hit LH pitching. You saw what the Brewers got him to do when they platooned him.

Ankiel needs a platoon partner. Bourgeois is the perfect platoon partner.

Gonat said...

Also, 25th top prospect isn't giving up much and they got Bourgeois and a catcher in return.

I have never said to give up much for Bourgeois. I was with the group that was saying low level prospect.

This was a swing and a miss by Rizzo unless there is some evidence that Bourgeois is a clubhouse problem.

Wally said...

I think I read the Astros GM saying that the PTBNL is the key part of the trade for them. Though I agree that as our roster currently stands, he is a fit for us. Hopefully Rizzo has a RH OF coming.

Did SteveM ever share the Lannan rumor (sorry, been swamped so not current on prior posts).

Mark'd said...

I asked for help calculating splits on Bernadina + Bourgeois in a platoon. The numbers were excellent as expected.

I don't get it. Brett Carroll isn't going to perform anywhere close to Bourgeois in platoon.

Houston gave him away for a no-level prospect plus they threw in a catcher.

Gonat said...

Wally, SteveM isn't sharing. I put him on the spot and ran with the info a couple days ago and screwed up the initial message.

From what I understand the Yankees were interested in Lannan and then Pettitte (lefty) came back which changed things quickly.

Looks like the Royals and Detroit are in play and NYY is backing off as best as I can decipher.

I have a tendency to run with info and now I have been cut off. My apologies.

jeeves said...

You don't trade Flores for Bourgeois. And I imagine that was who the Astros wanted.

HHover said...

Of course, there's still a potential that the Nats do a deal with KC for Bourgeois.

Whether that would be good or bad news depends on who the Nats send to KC.

LoveDaNats said...

@Anon at 8:06
Last week they were letting us into the stadium at 11:30 for a 1pm game.
The guys were already done with BP and the opposing team is up by then. Never saw anyone on the adjacent fields.

Wally said...

Gonat - thanks for catching me up, and sorry you are feeling a little sheepish about it. Certainly no apologies needed for me, I know the rumor stuff is just speculation until it happens, and I enjoy the discussion about them.

Theophilus said...

Or, they could get Willy Taveras without giving up anything. He bats RH, too. Jeeesh.

Anonymous said...

Any change the Royals are planning on flipping this bougie guy to the Nats? Seems they already have a full outfield...

natsfan1a said...

Thanks, I thought it looked like you but wasn't sure.

Sunderland said...

That's me standing next to Theophilus.
March 20, 2012 8:29 PM

Anonymous said...

Anon @9:11, good point. They look over-stocked. I'm thinking like HHover that Rizzo may turn to KC. Also have to think that maybe they were trying to do a 3 team deal and Rizzo backed out. Still thinking Rizzo isn't done.

JaneB said...

You know, won't it be grand when Harper comes up, whatever position he plays? Just call me Pollyanna. But I'm right. We will all be so glad it won't matter where he bats, or where he plays defense. That's a fact.

Nat of the People said...

This thread started regarding Harper. Let me talk about him.

He has a B arm. B speed. B glove. Maybe a B bat for average, probably a B/A bat for power--at the MLB level. We turned this kid into Mantle way, way before he was ready. Look at his numbers people--he is in the broad, broad middle, nothing more.

I'm also afraid he's got B makeup. He said CF is easier than LF or RF. Does ANYONE on this board, or anyone familiar with baseball, believe that? He said he wants to crush opposing infielders, and drive them into the outfield bleachers when "HE" slides into second base. Will we all be happy when he injures opposing players? Do we think MLB players don't have a way to "tighten up" young big-mouths like this?

We are all advocates for baseball in Washington. Every one of of us on this board. I will not sacrifice the legacy of Walter Johnson and Josh Gibson and Frank Howard and Ryan Zimmerman on the altar of a maybe-punk who worships Joe Namath.

There is a lot at stake with this boy. And he is a boy.

Dave said...

Anons @9:11 & 9:31
It does seem like there may be another shoe to drop on that Bourgeois trade (both because it didn't seem like a particular area of need for the Royals, and because the "significant" PTBNL seems odd at this point in the season). I wonder if maybe the Nats are trying to swing a deal for Lorenzo Cain, and the Royals needed to line up a backfill first?

Anonymous said...

Re: the second half of a royals trade - maybe they were showcasing Lombardozzi tonight?

Anonymous said...

Dave, think of this also with the Royals. Alex Gordon did not accept their extension offer. You have to think he will move on to Free Agency after 2013.

The Royals also Drafted Bubba Starling in the Draft and he could be ready in 2 to 3 years for his callup.

The Royals are in a big big youth rebuild and have young arms. They have to decide if Alex Gordon is part of their future like what the Nats had to do with Zimmerman. If he's not, than you have to trade him.

ehay2k said...

Man, if Harper is a five B guy, then all the rest of the MLB prospects for every team must really stink!

Not sure where you are getting your info, but there are a LOT of pro scouts and talent evaluators that disagree with you. Given your total lack of credibility compared to theirs, I'll stick with their assessments.

Now, do I agree the kid is over-hyped? Yes.

Is he a punk? I have never met him so I cannot say that he is, but everything I have seen from live interviews tells me he is a typical 19 year-old phenom - very sure of himself, not afraid to take risks. But he is an unfailingly polite 19-year old phenom. So I am not leaning towards punk at this point.

Does he have ML power? Are you joking? Anyone who can hit the ball 500 feet, and consistently over the fences even in BP, has ML power. Only an idiot would say otherwise. I have seen him hit in person, and he knocked a fastball over the RF wall on a laser shot.

Can he hit ML pitching? No one knows because he has only faced ST pitching.

Anonymous said...

Let's give Bryce some slack - let the kid learn. I don't think he's a B-grade, but he still needs to prove himself, but baseball rewards patience and you have to judge slowly...no, even more slowly than that (To quote Thomas Boswell, "Time Begins on Opening Day" still one of the best baseball books ever).

30 teams (unless some were scared off by Boras and his salary demands) would have taken Bryce Harper #1, so let's see how he does....relax and enjoy the journey!

Gonat said...

Dave said...
Anons @9:11 & 9:31
It does seem like there may be another shoe to drop on that Bourgeois trade (both because it didn't seem like a particular area of need for the Royals, and because the "significant" PTBNL seems odd at this point in the season). I wonder if maybe the Nats are trying to swing a deal for Lorenzo Cain, and the Royals needed to line up a backfill first?

March 20, 2012 9:44 PM

I remember 2 years ago when Cain was in the Minors with the Brewers he was mentioned here as a replacement for Nyjer (a shame it didn't happen). He is killing it this Spring Training. If you think Bourgeois hits LH pitching well, Cain is even better.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of Cain and other opportunities, Erik Komatsu went 3-5 today with 2 RBIs for the Cardinals. He has excelled under the eye of Mark McGwire who is an excellent hitting coach.

As much as I like Rizzo, he has to rely on his scouts and his scouts have missed some gems. Yes, I remember also when Cain and Yonder Alonzo were both brought up here long before they played 1 game in the Majors or even before they were considered Top Prospects. I also remember when the same person said the Nats should go after Brandon McCarthey or Gio Gonzalez of the A's. Same person mentioned Matt Moore when he was in the Minors. I take notice and its appreciated the research done. If he says Bourgeois should be considered, I am all ears.

I don't think it takes a genius to see obvious talent. It does take talent to find talent that isn't obvious.

Soul Possession, PFB Sofa said...

Does ANYONE on this board, or anyone familiar with baseball, believe that?

Lots of people find center "easier" in the sense that they prefer it. It allows greater range for ballhawking outfielders with speed and flexibility than a corner spot. Some people, and Harper is one of them to hear him tell it, say they get a better read off the bat looking straight in.

the stick said...

I will not sacrifice the legacy of Walter Johnson and Josh Gibson and Frank Howard and Ryan Zimmerman on the altar of a maybe-punk who worships Joe Namath.

Hey! Who turned out the lights!?? It's dark in here!

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