Bryce and Next Year

Bryce Harper was on the Sports Fix today and said that he actually has a reason for saying that Mickey Mantle is his favorite player. He grew up a Yankees fan all of his life, and watching film and hearing stories, Mantle was the guy that popped out to him from switch hitting, to hardnosed play, to everything else. It’s not so crazy to me – one of my all time favorite players is Lou Gehrig, who died nearly 40 years before I was born. In my defense though, how can you not love a player nicknamed Biscuit Pants?

Harper also mentioned that he is a Cowboys fan and a Lakers fan, so he likes winners. We call those guys “frontrunners” where I come from. It’ll be interesting to see if he ever likes the Nats.

Every time I hear him speak, I always come away thinking that Harper sounds relatively polished, especially for a guy of his age. He doesn’t sound too cocky, and sounds very respectful of the game. He mentions that the game is humbling – I guess because when you only get on base half the time you’re out the other half.

He didn’t know if he’d be in the Arizona Fall League, and the Nats might not yet know what to do. It’s a tough league with many guys that will be in the majors in less than a year playing there. He could lose confidence quickly if he’s overmatched for the first time in his career. If he does go and look good, though, it would show a lot for how far along he already is, and how close he is to reaching the majors.

I’ve maintained that while some people don’t expect to see him until 2013, there’s a good chance he’s closer than that. He will turn 18 in just under a month, so next year will be considered his age 18 season. ARod was playing in the majors in his age 18 season, while Griffey and Justin Upton were both up by 19. I’m not saying he’ll tear up the minors to the point he’s ready to come up next summer, but it may be sooner than people think.

And boy, do the Nats need it. With a dismal attendance yesterday, the Nats are not bringing fans to the park. When Strasburg pitched, they were able to sell out, now they can’t hit 25% attendance. Zimmermann hasn’t been the 1A to Strasburg’s 1 this fall, so there is not buzz about him. Their rookies are doing something good, but Ian Desmond, Danny Espinosa, and Wilson Ramos aren’t going to draw fans. Not at this point in their careers. 2011 is Strasburg-free, they’re gonna have to win games to bring people out. And while I have optimism, I’m not sure if they’re there yet. And I don’t know if I can take another year of pundits mocking the fanbase and the lack of attendance.

I’m not saying that the Nats need to bring Harper up next year. But if September rolls around again, the Nats are out of it, the minor league season is done, and Harper looks like he’s ready to go, it might be nice to get a chance to see him. It’s more important that he plays when he’s ready, and not before it. But if he is ready, they’d be smart to have him in RF a year from now.

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