NEW YORK – Bryce Harper won't be hitting the major leagues this year, no matter how much he tears up minor league pitching.
"We feel that his development is not ready to play in the big leagues," Rizzo said at Citi Field, reiterating comments he made in spring training and earlier Wednesday on ESPN980.
"The moment he's ready and we believe he's ready, he'll be in the big leagues — if he's earned it and is ready to play in the big leagues and to stay in the big leagues."
Harper was hitting .366 with nine home runs, 31 RBIs and six stolen bases for Class-A Hagerstown. The 18-year-old slugger and last year's No. 1 overall draft pick has been especially dominant since getting new contact lenses.
"We like the adjustments he's made at the plate, first of all. We like the adjustments he's made specifically against left-handed pitching, which were points of emphasis going into Hagerstown," Rizzo said before the Nationals played the New York Mets.
"His defense in the outfield, baserunning, all the little things that come into play is what we wanted him to work on at that level and he's in the process of working on and he's doing great. He's at the point where he's really, really playing well there."
So when might Harper be promoted to Class-A Potomac of the Carolina League?
"All these steps are important, but the next step is the most important decision we have to make. And once he's graduated from that step we'll take it to the next level," Rizzo said. "It's not any one thing. It's just an overall evaluation of where he's at during the season and that type of thing. I think a lot of it stems on his development on the defensive side of it in the outfield."
Harper was a catcher as an amateur, but the Nationals moved him to the outfield to try to keep him healthy and maximize his impressive offensive skills. He has been playing primarily in right field, but also is getting some time in center.
Rizzo said he has not seen Harper play at Hagerstown.
"We're going to work him out in all three outfield positions," Rizzo said. "I think four out of six days he plays in right field and two days he plays in center. I think that's the breakdown of what we had. Center field is an important process just because it gives you the full landscape of seeing the bat off the ball and that type of thing. He adjusted well to both positions, and we're going to introduce him to left field a little bit also."