With Opening Day less than three weeks away, the Washington Nationals are fine-tuning the lineups, trying to whittle their players down to a 25-man roster for the start of the regular 2012 season. In the most recent cuts, four players were sent down to the Minors – first baseman Tyler Moore, Catcher Jhonatan Solano, infielder Mark Teahen, and the most controversial cut of all, outfielder and 2010 first-round draft pick, Bryce Harper.
Some Nationals fans are up in arms over Harper’s demotion to the minors; but really, it was the best thing for everyone. First of all, it’s not like 19-year-old Harper was tearing up Spring Training with a .400 batting average and 10 home runs – he batted .286 with two doubles, no RBIs, 11 strike-outs and 2 walks. That goes to show you that Bryce still has some growing-up to do; he needs to do better with off-speed pitches and needs to have more of a dominating presence in front of legitimate pitchers. He may have really big forearms, but he still looks like a little kid when he goes up to bat.
Another reason why sending Bryce Harper down to Triple-A Syracuse was a good idea has more to do with the business-side of baseball. If Harper spends at least 21 days in the Minor Leagues, the Nationals will hold his rights through the 2018 season. By then, Harper will have (hopefully) developed into a hitting powerhouse and will have (hopefully) established himself as a respected hitter and decent outfielder. Remember that Harper was a catcher in high school, so he still needs to work on his defense if he’s going to be an everyday center fielder.
So now that Bryce Harper and his attitude have been sent packing, the Nationals and manager Davey Johnson can focus on perfecting their lineup for Opening Day. Johnson is still counting on Ian Desmond and Danny Espinosa to bat first and second, but let me tell you, if they don’t start producing some hits and getting on base, the Nationals’ hitting will be like last year, where they were 23rd in the Majors with an average of 3.87 runs scored per game. It got a little old last year watching Michael Morse, Ryan Zimmerman and even Jayson “Werth-less” hitting solo homers; Ian and Espy need to get on base. Period.
So we’re in the final stretch of Spring Training – the weather is getting warmer, my tickets for the Nationals’ home opener against the Cincinnati Reds have arrived, and I’m so ready for the regular season to start! Let me know if you’ll be going to any games down in DC this year – Nationals Park is easy to get to by Metro and there will be all kinds of giveaways for fans who attend the games this year. Frederick fans are lucky to live so close to such a beautiful ball park!