During a radio interview today Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo made it very clear that 18-year-old stud prospect Bryce Harper won’t be playing in the majors this season.
Here’s an excerpt from the interview, via Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington:
It’s not gonna happen, because he’s not ready for that to happen. He’s got to learn the nuances of the game of baseball. We certainly don’t want to push him to a level where he’s overmatched and struggles even for a short period of time. We’re just not going to put him in a place where he has a chance to fail until we feel he’s 100 percent ready for that level.
When he is, we will certainly bring him up because, you know, we want to win as bad as anybody else. There’s nobody that wants to win worse than I do. Believe me, if I felt he was ready to hit in the big leagues right now and perform in the big leagues right now, he would be up in the big leagues. If he gave us the best chance to win, he’d be up there and trying to help us win.
That’s not quite true, of course, because Stephen Strasburg clearly gave the Nationals “the best chance to win” immediately after he joined the organization and they waited to call him up until sufficiently delaying his service time. None of which is to say that Rizzo is anything but correct about keeping Harper in the minors.
He’s destroying Single-A as an 18-year-old, which speaks to his amazing long-term upside, but it doesn’t mean he’d also destroy Triple-A pitching as an 18-year-old, let alone big-league pitching. And the Nationals aren’t going anywhere this season anyway, so Harper can develop at a reasonable but rapid pace and likely reach Washington at some point in 2012–when he’ll still be all of 19 years old–all while keeping his pre-free agency clock from ticking.