March 14, 2012; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) runs in from the outfield after the third inning of the game against the Atlanta Braves at Champion Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-US PRESSWIRE

Bryce Harper Assigned to Triple-A, Will Play Center Field

One of the biggest debates for the Nationals in Spring Training this year is officially over. Bryce Harper has been optioned to AAA to start the season, and will not be on the Opening Day roster as many had hoped. Harper finished the spring hitting .285, but was hitting .455 after 4 games before getting injured (minor calf strain) early in the spring. His peripheral stats are similarly unimpressive, as he struck out 11 times, but walked and hit only 10 times combined. Bryce’s demotion does not come as an incredible surprise, as most suspected it would happen unless Harper absolutely destroyed all the pitching he faced, which simply was not the case.

Despite the demotion to AAA, Amanda Comak of the Washington Times reports that Davey Johnson still expects Harper to play a good amount in the majors this year. Most notably, Comak and The Washington Post’s Adam Kilgore report that Harper will play mostly center field in AAA, and that the Nats expect him to play center field when he comes to the majors this year.  This comes as a stunning reversal from the team’s previous stance, where GM Mike Rizzo searched tirelessly for a long-term CF solution. As of right now, it appears the team saw enough in Bryce’s fielding in Spring Training that they trust him to adapt to that position for now. It remains to be seen whether the team expects Bryce to stay there long-term, or if they simply want him to play there until next year, when Morse can move back to first base and whatever new FA acquisition will move in to play CF. Regardless, this announcement is quite a surprise, and certainly changes what the Nationals plan to do in the outfield for the 2012 season.

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  • sportscatch

    So then what happens to Corey Brown who was one of the top producers offensively and defensively?

  • Aaron Somers

     @sportscatch That’s actually a good question. I’d guess Brown would just slide over to one of the corners, as the team is going to want him to get regular at bats after he impressed this Spring. Perhaps there will end up being some sort of platoon-like situation where the two players rotate back and forth between center and one of the corners – broadening their experience across the outfield, not just as one position. 

  • 69NatsFan

    Aaron — I agree, versatility helps everyone and leaving Werth in RF increases the probability that he makes it at least close to the six more years left on his crazy contract as a productive player. I’ll make a bold prediction here — it would not surprise me if Brown makes it to the Show before Harper – but, unlike Harper, he may not stay there the rest of his career. It sure would be nice for the Nats, though, if both Brown and Harper become great outfielders!

  • sportscatch

     I think a healthy Brown has shown what he is capable of. When you look at the yrs he did well, he was injury free. I hope he gets called up soon, and is able to finally stay healthy, productive, and  show that great defense.