Bryce Harper following Nationals' plan 

July, 11, 2011
PHOENIX -- During spring training in Viera, Fla., this past March, I spent some time with Washington Nationals senior vice president and general manager Mike Rizzo on the field prior to batting practice and asked him about the team’s development plan for last year’s first overall pick in the draft, Bryce Harper.

Rizzo told me the plan was for Harper to start the year in Hagerstown of the South Atlantic League and, if all went well, he would skip high A (Potomoc) and go directly to Harrisburg, the Nationals' Double-A affiliate. All went well for Harper at Hagerstown. He had a .977 OPS with 17 doubles, 49 runs scored, 14 home runs and 46 RBIs to go along with 19 stolen bases and a .423 on base percentage. Not to say there weren’t a few issues along he way, like blowing a kiss to an opposing pitcher, Greensboro's Zachary Neal, after they exchanged words over Harper’s home run trot.
[+] EnlargeBryce Harper
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesBryce Harper, 18, will likely reach the major leagues by sometime in the 2012 season.

Rizzo celebrated the Fourth of July holiday and brought fireworks to D.C., perhaps matching those that took place at the White House, by promoting Harper to Double-A and staying on plan. In his so far short stay at Harrisburg, Harper is hitting a robust .357 in 16 plate appearances.