Washington Nationals prospect, and occasional headache, Bryce Harper will make his eagerly anticipated major league debut tonight when the Nationals take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Southern California.
Harper, the top overall pick in 2010, has been a hyped prospect since he could drive. He earned his GED at the end of his sophomore season so that he could join a college team to accelerate his advancement to the pros.
At age 17, he enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. The SWAC uses wooden bats for its conference games, but despite that Harper still hit .443/.526/.987 with 31 home runs in 66 games.
Prior to that season, Southern Nevada's single season home run record was 12. In the National Junior College Athletic Association World Series Harper was 6-for-7 with 5 RBI while hitting for the cycle in game one, went 2-for-5 with a three run double in the second game and went 6-for-6 with four homeruns a triple and a double in the third.
But the 19-year-old showed his immaturity and his temper at that tournament as well. In the team's fourth game, Harper was ejected for arguing a strike three call. Southern Nevada lost the game he was ejected from and lost the following game while Harper served a suspension, eliminating them from the tournament.
That's not the last time he's had run ins with officials. As recently as August of last year he was getting thrown out of a minor league game for a major league tantrum.
In April of 2011, in one of his first professional games with class A Hagerstown, Harper nearly caused a bench clearing brawl. In the video below, the real action starts around 1:25. He struck out looking, and was angry enough about it to follow the pitcher back towards the visiting dugout to have words with him.
That act brought both benches out onto the field and really introduced him to the world as a bit of a loose cannon.
But to focus on his immaturity ignores what has gotten him to this point, his massive hitting talent. He is 6'4 225 pounds at age 19 and he can hit the cover off the ball.
In Hagerstown, he hit 14 homeruns and drove in 46 RBI in just 258 at bats. In 129 minor league games spread over A, AA and AAA, Harper hit .290 with 18 homeruns and 61 RBI. He has also flashed some speed, stealing 27 bases.
Harper was a catcher for most of his amateur career, but the Nationals have converted him to outfield. They were intending to make him their right fielder of the future, but he has been so successful at center in the minors that they think he may be able to stick there.
He will make his debut in left field however, with Mike Morse on the disabled list.
He was called up when the Nationals put Ryan Zimmerman on the 15-day disabled list. So the Nationals won't get to see their top hitters together in the lineup for a little while yet. But there is reason to believe that the Nationals intend to keep Harper with the big club even after Zimmerman gets back.
I'm going to put him in left field and let him play, Johnson said. Harp had a great spring training, he's a phenomenal talent, and he's been swinging the bat down there. But we have a need here for a left-handed bat, and he's the guy that fits the role. As far as I'm concerned, he's earned the right to get the opportunity.