Bryce Harper Signed. Now What?

Posted by Dave Nichols | Tuesday, August 17, 2010 | , , , , , , | 1 comments »

So Bryce Harper signed a major league deal with the Washington Nationals worth $9.9 million last night before the midnight deadline.

Awesome.

What's it mean?

To start with, it means he had to be placed on the 40-man roster, and that happened today with Luis Atilano beiong transferred to the 60-day D.L. He wasn't going to return this season after surgery on his elbow to remove bone chips.

The team will have Harper in next week on the homestand to meet the media and the major league staff, and will probably work out as well. Don't expect him to be taking any batting practice while the gates are open though.

After that, it's off to Viera, FL, home of the Nats minor league complex to work out, and perhaps he'll get in a few Gulf Coast League games before the season ends August 28. If the team feels like he's ready, they could then send him out to a minor league assignment for a week or so.

Once the season ends, Harper will go to the Nats Florida Instruction League, where they send their best prospects for intensive workout and training, and perhaps -- and General manager Mike Rizzo was non-committal about this last night -- he could even be assigned to the Arizona Fall League, the annual showcase for the top young talent in the major leagues.

Then, since he has the major league contract, he'll be invited to big league spring training to get a taste of that before spending next season in the minor leagues. Instead of his senior year of high school.

But that's logistics. What do yesterday's signings -- all four of them -- mean to the big picture?

I asked Rizzo this at last night's press conference, and his answer was concentrated on the immediate: that the Lerners were invested in building this organization:

"We feel that we landed Harper, Solis, Hague, Cole -- and even Robert Ray -- were guys we were extremely happy about and these guys are going to be impactful players for us. It comes down to the committment from ownership to field a championship organization."
In the even bigger picture, it's a huge leap toward making the Nationals minor league system viable. The Nationals signed 25 of their top 26 picks and 33 of the total of 50 or so. Most of the unsigned picks were high schoolers at the back of the draft who will go to college or junior college to improve their draft standing.

This organization is still bereft of prospects in the higher minor leagues, what media-types like to call "major league-ready" talent. Shortstop Danny Espinosa is having a tremendous year (he hit another home run last night, his first game for AAA-SYR) and catcher Derek Norris made many national off-season prospect lists, but his status was hurt this season dealing with injuries, first hamate surgery, then a concussion.

After that? Pretty slim, especially as far as hitters go.

Most of the Nats best young talent is already on the major league roster: Strasburg, Storen, Zimmermann, Desmond.  Espinosa might join them as soon as next year.  But along with last year's bumper crop of college arms, Rizzo outdid himself signing three "impactful" --his words -- pitchers using over-slot money to bolster the farm system.

Sammy Solis, the second round pick, is a polished left-handed starter.  He may have a limited ceiling of a No. 3-4 starter in the bigs, but he should get there quickly.  Robbie Ray, another lefty taken in the 12th round, was lured away from the University of Arkansas and possesses a big arm and projectable size. 

And the coup de grace is A.J. Cole.  The big righty from Floirda touches 97 mph already as a prep and was considered by many to be the second best high school arm in this draft.  He was widely ranked as a first-round pick that fell all the way to the Nats in the fourth round, where Rizzo could no longer pass up the opportunity to convince him to bypass the University of Miami and turn pro. 

All it took was $2 million dollars.

So as this year's version of the Nationals slog their way toward 90 losses, keep all these names in the back of your mind.  And don't worry about re-signing Adam Dunn.  By the time this talent reaches the majors and finally makes the Nationals a truly competitive team, he'll be 34 and probably past his usefulness.

The next veteran contract Nats fans really has to worry about is Ryan Zimmerman, who becomes a free agent after the 2013 season, right about the time Harper should debut as a full-time player.

1 comments

  1. Anonymous // August 18, 2010 at 7:17 PM  

    The Nationals should still focus on signing Adam Dunn, if only because he is popular with the fans and can bring the club attention with his power swing.