Would the Washington Nationals ever consider moving Bryce Harper to first base? Their current first baseman, Adam LaRoche will be 35 years old when he becomes a free agent after the 2014 season. There is a chance that Washington will not resign him which would leave the position open.
Why would the Nationals consider moving Harper? The answer is that he may be better at first than in the outfield. Harper has only played the outfield for two years. He was a catcher when Washington drafted him with the first pick in the 2011 draft, but Harper’s strong arm and swift legs made him more valuable in the outfield. In an effort to maximize his skills, the Nationals immediately moved him from behind the plate.
The Nationals have no problem leaving Harper in the outfield and have been patient in his development. The plan was for him to play in left or right, but when Washington’s quest to find a center fielder came up empty Harper was inserted there last April. This season he has been moved to left after Denard Span was picked up in a trade with the Minnesota Twins.
However, a move to first base could do two things for Harper. First it would cut down on the chances of injury as there would be less chance of the reckless outfielder crashing into a wall, running into a teammate or hurting himself making a diving catch. Second it would keep the ever wrestles Harper in the game on every pitch just as when he was a catcher. The first baseman has a lot of responsibility and Harper seems like a player who wants to take a leadership role. Playing first would give him the chance to do this.
Moving Harper to first may not be as far fetched is it seems. The Nationals have been thinking about what they are going to do when LaRoche’s contract runs out. Michael Morse or Chad Tracy would have stepped in this season if LaRoche had not been resigned. Chris Marrero has been biding his time in the minor leagues, but hampered by injuries. One of the future options is moving third baseman Ryan Zimmerman to first.
There is no pressing need to move Harper, but Washington has done a good job of stocking their minor league system with young outfielders. Prospects Brian Goodwin, Eury Perez and Michael Taylor could all be ready by 2015. If one or two of them are, the Nationals could team them with Span. If Washington needs to make room for them, moving Harper to first could be the answer.
The Nationals don’t have to worry about who is going to play first for a couple of years, but general manager Mike Rizzo is always thinking ahead. His job is to look at every option and find the ones that maximize Washington’s talent. It would not surprise some if the shrewd judge of talent gives moving Harper to first base some consideration.