Originally written on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 2/2/12

On Tuesday, Jon Heyman reported that Davey Johnson really wants Bryce Harper to begin the season as his everyday right fielder. While we don’t have a direct quote from Johnson confirming the story, the fact that the alternative is some combination of Roger Bernadina, Mike Cameron, and Xavier Paul, it’s understandable that Johnson would prefer the uber-talented Harper in his question to win games.

Managers always want to put the best players on the field that they can. Their job is to maximize performance in the short term, and given the choice between a raw potential superstar or a mediocre role player with limited upside, they’re going to take the kid nearly every time. However, this is also why managers aren’t allowed to make these calls, and Bryce Harper’s opening day assignment will be decided by the team’s front office.

For the Nationals, this should be a pretty easy call. The 19-year-old Harper looks to be a special talent, but even the very best 19-year-olds are generally not great Major League players. In the history of the sport, 16 guys have gotten 100 or more plate appearances in the Majors and been above average Major League hitters – the list includes Ty Cobb (134 wRC+), Mickey Mantle (114 wRC+), and Ken Griffey Jr (106 wRC+). If we assume that Harper is that kind of talent, maybe we could pencil him in for a 110 wRC+ or so this season. If he’s more like previous elite teenage prospects B.J. Upton (93 wRC+), Robin Yount (90 wRC+), or Mike Trout (88 wRC+), he’ll likely face his share of struggles and contribute minimal value to the team.

The Nationals simply should not trade team control of Harper’s age-25 season in exchange for getting a few hundred additional at-bats from him this year. The marginal value of having him on the roster from day one is massively outweighed by keeping him from hitting free agency after the 2017 season. Johnson may want Harper, but he shouldn’t get him until June at the earliest.

Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Mike Richards incident involved oxycodone

Report: Spurs, Leonard working on max deal

Ex-Cowboy indicted on sexual assault charges

Report: Kevin Love to meet with Lakers

Carli Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final


Auburn, Oregon to open 2019 season at AT&T Stadium

Butler can’t sign one-year contract unless it’s with Bulls

DeAndre Jordan wants 4-year deal, bigger offensive role

Kings reportedly looking into viability of firing Karl

Jim Brown: I ‘encourage and support’ Johnny Manziel

Vincent criticizes NFLPA over spending millions on lawsuits

Report: Pelicans sign Davis to five-year, $145M extension

Rex Ryan more excited about Taylor than Cassel?

Jose Aldo out of UFC 189, replaced by Chad Mendes

Landon Donovan takes shot at Jurgen Klinsmann

Hope Solo admits to using stalling tactics on penalty kick

Scottie Pippen: ‘I was LeBron James before LeBron James’

Feud between Scioscia and Dipoto makes Angels fascinating case study

WATCH: Jim Harbaugh throws out first pitch at Tigers game

MLB’s All-Star roster will now announced be over two days

Blackhawks trade Brandon Saad to the Blue Jackets

Blatter won’t attend World Cup final due to ‘personal reasons’

Sharks have found their starting goalie by acquiring Jones

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Lloyd sends USWNT to World Cup final

Selecting the 2015 AL All-Stars

NBA Draft grades: Eastern Conference

Under the radar NBA free agents

Michael Sam, boyfriend broke up?

Mickelson linked to money laundering?

Reminiscing on 'Love & Basketball' 15 years later

Selecting the 2015 NL All-Stars

The Sixers' latest horde

Projected landing spots for NBA's top free agents

MLB changes format for Home Run Derby

Revis to work out with Patriots DBs

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.