The Nationals optioned Bryce Harper to Triple-A Syracuse Sunday, the same day he struck out four times in a spring training loss to the Tigers. Harper was probably headed to the minors to begin the season regardless of his performance in spring training, but missing six games with a calf injury and then punching out four times in the same game probably made it easier for the team to send him down.
The interesting part about Bryce starting in the minors is that the team plans to play him in center field. The Washington Post says the team sees him making it to the majors as a center fielder, which would make things easier for Jayson Werth who feels comfortable playing right field.
GM Mike Rizzo also wants Harper to experience every level in the minors, so that’s why he’s starting in Triple-A, the only level he hasn’t played yet. It’s a smart move for the Nats on a few fronts. One, starting Harper at Triple-A should motivate him to reach his goal of making the majors because t will give him more time to mature as a person and player. Additionally, it keeps his MLB service time clock from starting, delaying his free agency.