Will Bryce Harper start the season with the Nationals?

Big League Stew

Over the past few weeks, only one question has been asked of me by every radio show that I've guested on.

Where will Bryce Harper start the year?

Indeed, the future of the 19-year-old Washington Nationals phenom will continue to be a trending topic all spring long. And if I'm already being deluged with questions, I can't imagine what my pal Adam Kilgore, Nats' beat writer for the Washington Post, is going through.

On Friday, Kilgore made his early prediction while trying to predict what the Nats' 25-man roster will look like on opening day. His hunch? You better be willing to make the trip to Triple-A Syracuse if you want to see Harper in April and May.

Writes Kilgore:

Harper's presence on the Opening Day roster makes little sense from a development or business standpoint. Harper, 19, has never played at Class AAA and has less than 600 professional plate appearances. Also, by delaying his arrival until May, the Nationals can essentially promise an entire season of Harper at age 25 by sacrificing one month — the first month — of his age 19 production.

Indeed, that's pretty much the party line I've been spouting when asked the question and I don't consider it too much of a guess. The Nats aren't in "win now" mode, so even if Harper comes murdering the ball in spring training, he's not a must-have item for the first two months of the season. If you rewind the baseball blogosphere two years, you'd have seen the same things being written about Stephen Strasburg and he didn't reach the big leagues until the beginning of June.

Of course, this will spark a new round of questions on baseball's financial rules and the wisdom of putting teams in a position to manipulate roster time instead of introducing an exciting, young player to a fan base as early as possible.

But we'll cross that bridge when (and not if) we come to it.

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