Bill Ladson of MLB.Com reports that Washington Nationals catching prospect Bryce Harper will now play in the Arizona Fall League:
“The Nationals have decided that outfielder Bryce Harper, the No 1 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Draft, will play for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League, effective immediately, according to general manager Mike Rizzo. Harper will be on the Taxi squad, which means that he will play twice a week.
The news comes after Harper hit .319 with a 407 on-base percentage for the Nationals in the Instructional League. He also led the team in several offensive categories including, hits, homers, RBIs and walks.”
Initially Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo had wanted the 17-year-old (18 next week) Harper to go home and rest after a strong showing in the Instructional League. While Harper does have one year of community college under his belt, he commuted from home during his time at the College of Southern Nevada, meaning that his stint in Florida was his first real time away from home.
The club appears to have had a change of heart however, deciding that it will be better for Harper’s development if he does not become dormant over the next several months. While the Arizona Fall League provides a big leap in competition level for Harper, the Nationals have decided it would be better to see what he can do against top professional talent than to let him train on his own for the next few months.
Harper continues to be a unique developmental case. He re-wrote the rules when he dropped out of high school before his Junior year to attend community college. Most young prospects spend their first year of professional ball adjusting to the use of a wood bat, however Harper is ahead of the game here, he used a wood bat all last season at Southern Nevada. As much as Rizzo wants to be conservative in his approach with the young star, the only things he needs to adjust to are a new position (right field) and the speed of a top level game. Perhaps throwing him in the Arizona Fall League may just be the best way for Harper to make those adjustments.