2010 no.1 overall pick Bryce Harper was promoted to Double-A Harrisburg this morning and he'll make his Double-A debut tonight when the Senators take on the Erie Seawolves, the Detroit Tigers' Double-A affiliate. The 18-year-old phenom completed his time in Class-A Hagerstown with 17 doubles, one triple, 14 HR's and a .318/.423/.554 slash line in 72 games and 258 at bats. Harper will apparently skip over High-A Potomac. There's no word from the team yet, as to the reasons behind the decision to skip Potomac, but D.C. GM Mike Rizzo will be on the radio in the nation's capital at noon today to discuss the decision to promote Harper.
The Nats' GM has stressed that the Nationals wanted Harper to get used to the everyday-nature of professional baseball this season. In an interview earlier this year, then Nats' Skipper Jim Riggleman suggested that reaching Double-A in his first year would be, in his words, "a little bit of a stretch this year,":
"If he was ever to reach that level...Once you get to Double-A, the competition there has all funneled in from several leagues, to everybody only [having] one Double-A team, so there's a lot of talent funneled into that level, if he gets the point where he can really play well in Double-A then we know we have a player."
An anonymous "club official" who spoke to ESPN.com's Jayson Stark for an early May edition of the reporters "Rumblings and Grumblings" column entitled, "Reviewing what is painfully obvious", told the writer that people have asked the Nats all year when Harper will arrive in the majors and if it will be late this year or in 2012, and the word Mr. Stark received from the "Nationals source" he spoke to was, simply, "'That's not happening.'":
"In the Nationals' perfect world, Harper would play his way to Double-A by August, head for the Arizona Fall League in October, then blow through Double-A and Triple-A and reach Washington by late next season. But you never know."
Harper, who'll be in the All-Star Futures Game this Sunday (along with RHP Brad Peacock), played his way up early, apparently, or as many have speculated, skipped Class-A Potomac because of concerns about field conditions in the outfield, though those theories are unsupported publicly by anything the Nationals have said. What is official now, however, is that Bryce Harper is one step closer to the Major Leagues, and after dominating Class-A ball at times, and struggling some as well (Harper posted a .258/.402/.439 slash in June), the Nats' outfielder of the future is ready to see what he can do at Double-A.