Monday, April 30, 2012

Bryce Harper makes MLB Debut

This past weekend, baseball's "chosen one" Bryce Harper made his much-anticipated major league debut in LA against the Dodgers.  The Nationals got swept out of town and the 19-year old phenom went 2-6 with a double, 2 walks, an RBI, and a fantastic catch in center field (which is not his natural position, by the way).  Aside from his stupid faux-hawk and excessive amount of eye-black, this kid just looks like he belongs, and whether or not he remains on the team the entire year, he should be a fixture in the Nats lineup for at least 6 years.  Here's an idea of his talent: he was booed in his first professional at-bat, usually an honor bestowed upon future hall-of-fame veterans.  It was never a matter of "if" with Harper, but "when," and there has been much debate as to when he should be called up - later in the season to keep him under team control for a 7th season, or early in the year to sell tickets and help what was already a good ballclub.  He wasn't exactly tearing it up at Syracuse at the time of his callup, but with Ryan Zimmerman going on the DL and Mark DeRosa not performing, the Nats were looking for a spark in their lineup, and they thought Harper could help sooner rather than later. 

Washington has been a trendy preseason pick to win a playoff spot.  As of Monday, they lead the NL in ERA and are tied for the division lead with the Braves.  Aside from maybe the Royals, this team I feel has the largest upside in terms of a core of young talent, but something that the Nationals have that KC will never have is money.  They have the wealthiest owner in baseball and have the power to lock up guys like Jordan Zimmermann, Steven Strasburg, Danny Espinosa, Michael Morse, Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Zimmerman, Drew Storen, and Harper to long term deals, - and some they already have - but at the same time, they also have the resources to spend a lot of money on free agents like Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche.  Look for this team to be major players at the deadline this year a la Pittsburgh last year to add some veteran pieces to the puzzle for a playoff push.

I wrote a post two years ago entitled "Nationals on the verge of Greatness," and then last year about how the Nats were over .500 all the way into July.  I liked the Nats in 2010, in 2011, and I still like them as a playoff contender for 2012 and beyond.  The potential has been building a little slower than I have thought, and was certainly delayed by Strasburg's Tommy John surgery, but this is the season the Nationals put it all together and win a playoff spot.  In the last three years, this team has witnessed the debuts of arguably the most heralded pitcher and position players in baseball since Dice-K and Ken Griffey Jr, and they have another stud pitcher that is on few people's radar in Jordan Zimmermann that has Cy Young potential.  I think the callup of Bryce Harper signifies much more than the start of a career; it signals that this organization believes that this is the year, and it represents the beginning of a great era of baseball in DC.

Brewers 10-12, -4.0 (3 @ Padres, 3 @ Giants)
Reds 11-11, -3.0 (3 v. Cubs, 3 @ Pirates)
Twins 6-15, -5.5 (3 @ Angels, 3 @ Mariners)

Erik - 2
Peter - 6

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