Bryce Harper: Washington Nationals Opening Day Right Fielder?

PHOENIX, AZ - JULY 10: U.S. Futures All-Star Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals stands in during an at bat in the 2011 XM All-Star Futures Game at Chase Field on July 10, 2011 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Nationals phenom Bryce Harper will one day soon be manning right field for the Washington Nationals. The question everyone wants to know is when? MLB.com's Nationals beat writer Bill Ladsen wrote an article titled "Free Agency a Building Block for Nationals" where he posed this question when analyzing the Nationals areas of need this offseason:

Center fielder: Jayson Werth could start the season in center field, while the Nationals would be searching for a corner outfielder. Could Bryce Harper be that guy?

First of all, the Nationals would not really have to search for a corner outfielder if they feel Harper is ready. Harper made it to AA in 2011, his first season in the minors, and is heating up playing in the Arizona Fall League this month. Recent comments about Harper from GM Mike Rizzo makes one wonder if he thinks Harper is ready. This from SB Nations' Nationals site Federal Baseball:

"Bryce is playing very, very well,' Rizzo continued, "The last six or seven games he's been on a hot streak and playing good defense. His defense has improved dramatically. His baserunning has improved dramatically. His propensity to steal bases has been terrific. He's moving great, he feels great and he's swinging the bat real well." 

I would be surprised if Harper starts the 2012 season in the big leagues, but if the Nationals decide to sign Prince Fielder, and Ladsen suggests that it is a possibility, they may decide to move Werth to cover their need for a center fielder and promote Harper to play right field.

One other comment from Ladsen could be an indication that the Nationals could actually start Harper in the big leagues, and it was in regards to Prince Fielder:

The Nationals could be in the hunt for a first baseman, as they haven't made any promises to first baseman Adam LaRoche, who missed most of the season with a left shoulder injury. Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols could be at the top of the wish list, with Fielder a logical fit because he could help a right-handed-dominant lineup.

And Harper bats left-handed as well. The Nationals offseason should be real interesting as they continue to build a team that could compete for the NL East in the next year or two.

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