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Bryce Harper struggling since promotion to Double-A

Jul 20, 2011, 10:47 AM EDT

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper is struggling at baseball for what might be the first time in his life.

Promoted from low Single-A to Double-A last week, the former No. 1 overall pick has gone just 6-for-35 (.171) with zero extra-base hits through 10 games against Eastern League pitching.

He’s an 18-year-old in a league where the average player is 24 and skipped high Single-A altogether, so perhaps the struggles shouldn’t be surprising, but it does show any Nationals fans who wanted Harper in Washington already that baseball is really, really hard.

On the fast track since signing with the Nationals, he skipped rookie-ball and earned a quick promotion by hitting .318 with a .977 OPS in 72 games at low Single-A. He’ll get on track at Double-A soon enough and 10 bad games does nothing to alter Harper’s long-term outlook, but whatever slim odds he had of reaching the majors in his first pro season have diminished even further.

And that’s not such a bad thing. Mike Trout made headlines earlier this month for debuting with the Angels at age 19 and he’s 14 months older than Harper. There’s plenty of time and plenty more regrettable tattoos to get before arriving in Washington.

  1. captainwisdom8888 - Jul 20, 2011 at 10:53 AM

    …but he got new contacts put in…

  2. The Common Man - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:00 AM

    Ultimately, this will probably be good for Harper, as he has to learn to adjust his approach to be successful at higher levels and deal with the occasional setback in what will undoubtedly be a wonderfully productive and douchey career. The kid could use some humbling.

  3. ThatGuy - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:04 AM

    bust…

    • The Common Man - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:05 AM

      Maybe if he went a little easier on the eye-black, it would help

  4. Paul Bourdett - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    “Bryce Harper is struggling at baseball for what might be the first time in his life.”

    Not exactly. He hit just .231/.333/.333 (9-for-39, with just two XBH) through his first 12 games at low-A.

    • Aaron Gleeman - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:29 AM

      Point taken, but a .408 OPS is quite a bit different than a .666 OPS.

      • wlschneider09 - Jul 20, 2011 at 6:37 PM

        Small
        Sample
        Size

      • Paul Bourdett - Sep 22, 2011 at 6:15 PM

        Harper hit .287/.368/.479 at AA in the 27 games after this post.

  5. gammagammahey - Jul 20, 2011 at 11:29 AM

    Bust. The Nats should trade him to the Mets for Beltran. Come on, please.

  6. marshmallowsnake - Jul 20, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    Flash in the pan…I knew it!!! (joking)

  7. The Dangerous Mabry - Jul 20, 2011 at 1:21 PM

    He’s certainly likely to come around, but in my experience watching minor league baseball, the biggest difference in the pitching as you move up the ranks is the addition of more and more breaking stuff. A ball is almost exclusively a fastball league with some guys throwing out mediocre changeups. AA is where you start seeing the breaking stuff, and by AAA most guys have a handful of pitches they’re throwing. The adjustment from one level to the next as a hitter seems like it’s all about learning to hit a curveball. Once he gets that down, he’ll be able to progress again.

  8. killabri - Jul 20, 2011 at 2:49 PM

    As Harper faces more and advanced pitching, a really rough patch was bound to occur and it appears that he’s hit that point very early in his AA career. Given that he is going up against guys who have been in pro baseball for years, he’s obviously going to need quite a bit of time to adjust to the level of competition. As a result, seeing the bigs this year is highly unlikely. I think a good scenario for him would be to stay in AA for a bit, hopefully pick up his hitting, perhaps end the year in AAA, or begin next year there if he doesn’t make it this year. Let him get his numbers in AAA and then make him a mid-season call up towards the end of June. Nationals fans get to see the kid play, and he gets his feet wet in the bigs while the organization probably eliminates the risk of him reaching Super Two status.

  9. lgwelsh1 - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:04 PM

    He isn’t even close to coming to the big’s yet. He needs 2 more years minimum at these levels. The difference in talent just from A-AA is a lot in the sense of pitching. AAA players are 1 step away from the big’s ( or have been there and came back down ) and have a much better grasp. Bryce is a teenager still, he needs time to develop and learn how to see pitches better.

    There is no rush here, if he went to the big’s today he would get embarrassed.

  10. Chris Fiorentino - Jul 20, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Maybe if he blew more kisses to the double A pitchers, they would throw him more fastballs.

  11. hittfamily - Jul 20, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    At his age, he is still eligible to play high school baseball. Even with him in the biggest slump of his life, his .170 average is the best any highschooler could hope for against AA pitching and defense.

  12. brianc6234 - Jul 20, 2011 at 9:12 PM

    This shows how foolish the Nationals are. He shouldn’t be skipping so many levels. Send Harper down to High A and see if he can handle that. Maybe if he can he can go back to Double A at the end of the season.

    • tacklemeelmo - Jul 21, 2011 at 12:39 AM

      I’m inclined to disagree, but then I look at the careers of Wily Mo Pena and Delmon Young…

  13. hittfamily - Jul 21, 2011 at 1:10 AM

    …or Strasburg

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