Bryce Harper likely to start 2011 in Class A Hagerstown

Adam Kilgore
Copyright 2010
Wednesday, November 17, 2010; 12:11 PM

First overall pick Bryce Harper, currently tearing up the Arizona Fall League, a league packed with the most promising prospects in baseball, will begin the season in Class A Hagerstown, General Mike Rizzo said last night. Rizzo had said Harper would begin in Class A, but hadn't specified if he would begin in High-A Potomac or Low-A Hagerstown. In Hagerstown, Harper would play for new manager Brian Daubach, a former Red Sox slugger. Rizzo did not marry Harper to starting in Hagerstown, but the low level would allow Harper, 18, to develop against easier competition. The Nationals like to see their prospects dominate a level before advancing, such as when Stephen Strasburg began last year at Class AA Harrisburg despite obviously possessing the talent to pitch at a higher class. "I would assume [Harper] starts in Hagerstown," Rizzo said. "That could change. If the minor league season opened today, it would be Hagerstown. I think he needs to start in a comfortable position for him and succeed and move on." Later today, Harper will play his ninth game in the fall league. He is hitting .323/.400/.613 (average/on-base/slugging) with one home run, four walks and 10 strikeouts in 31 at-bats. Harper has also impressed scouts with his arm strength in right field. The Nationals took somewhat of a risk assigning Harper to the fall league, given his dearth of experience and age -- he became the second-youngest player, by less than a week, to play in the AFL. Rizzo, though, always felt comfortable with Harper fitting in. "He makes those decisions pretty easy," Rizzo said. "It's nice that he's doing well, but he was out there not only for the Wednesdays and Saturdays that he plays, but for the other five days a week that he didn't play. Those are as important or more important as far as his development. He's with those professional players. Many of those players will be in the big leagues in 2011." Harper can play only on Wednesday or Saturday because he is a member of the Scottsdale Scorpions "taxi squad." He still dresses for all games and participates in all pregame activities.

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