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Bryce Harper is on his way to the majors at 19, as Nationals place Ryan Zimmerman on DL

Apr 27, 2012, 4:54 PM EDT

Washington Nationals Photo Day Getty Images

Ryan Zimmerman needing a stint on the disabled list certainly isn’t a surprise considering the third baseman’s shoulder injury hasn’t shown any improvement, but the Nationals’ choice to replace him on the roster is a shocker.

General manager Mike Rizzo announced that Bryce Harper will be called up from Triple-A tomorrow to make his MLB debut this weekend at Dodger Stadium, which seemingly comes out of nowhere given that the top prospect was hitting just .250 with a .333 on-base percentage and .375 slugging percentage in 20 games at Triple-A.

Despite that lackluster production, Harper is coming to the majors at age 19 and with a grand total of 57 games above Single-A. Presumably the Nationals wouldn’t call him up to do anything but play every day, which means Rick Ankiel, Roger Bernadina, and Xavier Nady will lose outfield playing time and Mark DeRosa may see most of his remaining action paired with Chad Tracy at third base.

Harper’s arrival is coming significantly sooner and after significantly less success at Triple-A than anyone could have expected, with Rizzo admitting that “this isn’t the optimal situation developmentally.” However, it’s also worth noting that by keeping him in the minors for even a few weeks the Nationals have likely delayed his eventual free agency by an extra year.

UPDATE: Adding to the drama? Stephen Strasburg will be on the mound for the Nationals tomorrow.

UPDATE #2: Rizzo said the plan is for Harper to play left field, where he started just two twice in 20 games at Triple-A, and the GM indicated that there’s no guarantee he’ll stay in the majors once Zimmerman returns.

  1. Ben - Apr 27, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    For some reason I have a booming voice in my head declaiming “Let the Games… Begin!”

  2. addictedzone - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:01 PM

    Old school managers like Tom Kelly and Jack McKeon would have him in the starting lineup tonight. If they get called up, play them right away while their confidence is booming.

    • addictedzone - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:02 PM

      or whenever his plane gets to the west coast.

  3. thomas2727 - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:09 PM

    I see the circus is in Los Angeles this weekend.

    • Brian Murphy - Apr 28, 2012 at 3:41 AM

      I was able to scoop up the last two handicap accessible tickets for this game while at the stadium on Friday night — I’ll be in loge level, section 165. To watch Harper’s ML debut and Strasburg’s first start in L.A. at the same time … my last name is Murphy … an adage states that I’m not supposed to be this lucky. I don’t know what to say. I am beyond excited.

      And kudos to many Dodger fans for being non-apathetic for the first time in a long time. The line in the stadium Friday night at one ticket window was at least 20 deep more an hour prior to first pitch. People REALLY want to see this game. Especially us disabled folk!

  4. vanmorrissey - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    FOX national game of the week?

    • dodger88 - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:12 PM

      Night game so no.

  5. professor30 - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    what’s the over/under on how many ab’s before he wears one?

    • mrwillie - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:14 PM

      I’ll take the over as long he’s not blowing kisses.

  6. fhuizar - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:13 PM

    The bigger story here is Zimmerman hurt again! After he signed a fat extension

  7. dodger88 - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Too bad Kershaw goes tonight; would be great to have Kershaw & Kemp vs. Strasburg & Harper with Vinc Scully calling the game.

    • schlom - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:41 PM

      I doubt they would have him face the best lefthanded starter in baseball in his major league debut when he’s had trouble against lefties in the minors.

    • natstowngreg - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:01 PM

      Much as I enjoy the occasional Vin Scully call through Extra Innings, this is where it falls down. They blackout the Nats and Orioles games, including the opponents’ broadcasts. So I don’t get to hear what other announcers are saying about the Nats.

      There is hope. Maybe I’ll be able to get Vin on radio through MLB At Bat 12 on my iPod.

  8. beefytrout - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Seems like they could have managed to let the debut happen at home.

  9. foreverchipper10 - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:29 PM

    Thank you HBT for letting me know as I just scooped him up in a fantasy league. I know everyone here hates fantasy talk but I don’t care.

    • addictedzone - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:37 PM

      I can honestly say, I’ve never had a fantasy that involved Bryce Harper.

      • Ben - Apr 27, 2012 at 5:39 PM

        Those blown kisses never got you hot and bothered huh?

  10. natstowngreg - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:08 PM

    Interested as I am in seeing Harper, this is too soon, as Rizzo acknowledges. Setting aside the financial, service-time considerations, he hasn’t solved AAA pitching yet.

    • georgia - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:21 PM

      He could be one of those weird cases that performs iffy at AAA and just jumps into the Majors like he’s been there for years.

    • jwbiii - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:54 PM

      They’ve already avoided the free agency clock by keeping him down for more than 20 days. Given his contract, there’s nothing to gain by fiddling with his super two status.

      • jwbiii - Apr 28, 2012 at 4:43 AM

        natstowngreg: Agreed on the readiness issue, but I’m just looking at stat lines. My point is that there is no reason from a service time or financial standpoint not to do this. We often talk of service time and super two arbitration time as reasons to keep young players in the minors. These don’t apply here.

        He may struggle like Trout; he may thrive like Longoria. If he struggles, they’ll send him down when Zimmerman or Mike Morse get healthy or Xavier Paul or Brett Carroll or somebody else looks like a better option. The only “somebody else” outfielder on the 40-man roster is Eury Perez who is hitting 235/278/259 at AA Harrisburg. 1B Tyler Moore is doing well at AAA Syracuse (278/354/556) but has played a total of three games in the outfield. So the choices are basically a guy who is overmatched at AA, a guy hasn’t played outfield, exposing somebody to waivers to bring up Paul or Carroll, or Harper.

    • natstowngreg - Apr 27, 2012 at 7:08 PM

      Georgia, you may well be right, but it would be really unusual, and I wouldn’t want to rely on it happening.

      Adam Kilgore notes that Mike Rizzo cited Mike Trout’s case last season, when he was brought up early and struggled. Now, Trout is tearing up AAA. Rizzo suggested that something like that could happen with Harper — struggle at first, get a bit more work in AAA.

      jwbiii — Kilgore notes, toward the end of his piece, that the Nats will have Harper for the full 6 seasons. This is good, but to me, it’s still less a matter of contract status, and more of whether he’s ready.

  11. mj1818 - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:09 PM

    Coming to a good team he should fair well. But he’s also hitting .250 so it could be detrimental

  12. dondada10 - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    I understand that Harper is struggling, but this is the perfect time to call him up for two reasons:

    1. The Nats are in 1st place. By calling up Harper now, he’s joining a winning team instead of being viewed as the savior of the franchise.

    2. He replaced Zimmerman. When Zimmerman comes back from the DL, the Nats can send a struggling Harper down and it won’t seem as bad because they simply had to activate their current franchise guy.

    And FYI, they can still delay his service clock from starting if they send him down, and he doesn’t break camp with them next season (a la Mike Trout). Now, that’s obviously not gonna happen. But still.

  13. 49ersgiants4life - Apr 27, 2012 at 6:54 PM

    I hope he fails miserably this kid is a total tool reminds me of A Rod. Hope the Nats save some money for him cause he will go where he gets the most money when he gets to free agency

    • jwbiii - Apr 27, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      So you think that he’ll only win win 3 MVPs and hit 600 home runs through his age 35 season? Wow, that would totally suck.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 27, 2012 at 7:01 PM

      I hope he fails miserably this kid is a total tool reminds me of A Rod

      He reminds you of one of the best players of this generation? How is this bad?

      • sabatimus - Apr 28, 2012 at 1:57 AM

        Because A Rod is a classless roiding jerk off.

  14. sabatimus - Apr 28, 2012 at 1:56 AM

    Harper era to begin…and end in 15 days.

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