Baseball BeatJanuary 30, 2009
Revisiting Bryce Harper
By Rich Lederer

Last August, I wrote an article entitled "Remember This Name," whereby I opened with the following paragraph:

Let me introduce you to the No. 1 pick in the 2011 amateur draft . . . Bryce Harper. I know, that particular draft won't take place for three more years. As such, how in the world could I make this type of a prediction now? Well, if you watched the 15-year-old, lefthanded-hitting catcher take batting practice, infield, and two plate appearances on Tuesday at the Area Code Games, as I did, then I have no doubt that you would be as enthusiastic about this phenom as I am.

Harper made some more noise earlier this month at the third annual International Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field. Although Harper didn't win the contest, according to Baseball America's Nathan Rode, the tenth grader "played the part of Josh Hamilton" while Christian Walker, a third baseman from Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic High in Norristown, Pennsylvania "served the role of Justin Morneau."

Greg Rybarczyk, who maintains the indispensable site Hit Tracker Online, which logs and calculates the trajectory of every major league home run, covered Harper's exploits at the Home Run Derby contest:

Over the next 60 seconds, Harper unleashed an awe-inspiring series of hits to areas of Tropicana Field few major leaguers have reached:

• 460 feet to the top edge of the Jumbotron in right field; 119 mph off the bat
• 484 feet to the back wall of the stadium, 15 feet above the Jumbotron; 122 mph
• 485 feet to the back wall, just below the orange Bright House “target” sign; 123 mph
• 405 feet on a blistering line drive around the RF pole; 118 mph
• 502 feet to the back wall, in the vicinity of the first “A” in the Tropicana Field sign, 20 feet above the top of the Jumbotron; 124.5 mph
• 477 feet to right-center field, halfway up and a few feet to the left of the Jumbotron; 119 mph.

Harper cranked six home runs with a metal bat, averaging 469 feet with an exit velocity of 121 mph. Photographer Jeff Horton captured Harper's longest homer below (with Rybarcyzk providing location and distance for each of his dozen home runs).


Notice the white ball toward the top, left-center of the photo. It traveled 502 feet, the longest of the event and on record at Tropicana. According to Rybarczyk, the ball would have exited Yankee Stadium. Greg told Baseball America's Rode, "It was hit at precisely the right direction to get just to the left of the upper deck in Yankee Stadium, but to the right of the bleachers and back bleacher wall. It would have cleared the back wall of Yankee Stadium with probably about 15 to 20 feet to spare."

Rode added, "Another one of his shots traveled 484 feet and at its angle would have landed in the right field Upper Deck of Fenway Park, which has never been done."

Harper hit 12 home runs overall — enough to make the top five — but slugged only one in the final round. Rybarczyk said the 16-year-old high school sophomore "looked worn out, understandably so since he had the misfortune to have hit 67th out of 69 batters, and had only a few minutes to recover before the finals."

Walker won the title by going yard nine times in the final round. Ryan Gunhouse (Clear Creek HS, League City, Texas), Randal Grichuk (Lamar Consolidated HS, Rosenburg, Texas), and Dante Bichette (Orangewood Christian, Maitland, Florida) joined Harper (Las Vegas HS, Las Vegas, Nevada) in the finals. Bichette, the son of the former Colorado Rockies slugger, is a sophomore as well.

The following video of Harper is worth watching if you want to see him in action at the International Power Showcase.

You can learn more about Harper at his player profile on the Power Showcase site. If nothing else, remember this name.


Any chance of getting someone to do a swing analysis on this kid? Would be interesting to read.

Interesting, but not very pertinent to hitting with a wood bat.

Harper can hit with a wood bat as well. Here is what I wrote back in August 2008:

"Using a wood bat, Harper put on a hitting clinic toward the end of BP, blasting one shot after another. Several hours later, the prized prospect hit the two hardest balls during the opening day of the six-day tournament in which pitchers dominated the action. In his first at-bat, Harper, serving as the designated hitter for the Cincinnati Reds, lined out to center field. He hit the ball about as squarely as possible, directly up the middle but straight into the glove of Washingon Nationals center fielder Kyrell Hudson.

In Harper's second trip to the plate, he jacked a towering shot off the right-field wall for a stand-up triple to open the sixth inning. It is important to note that Blair Field is a pitcher-friendly ballpark played at seaside altitude with 348-ft dimensions down the lines that exceed those of every major-league stadium in existence."


Like almost all amateurs, Harper generates a little bit more swing speed with the metal bat and enjoys the benefits of a larger sweet spot and the trampoline effect.

If you want to be scientific about it, according to a study of home runs at the International Power Showcase by Greg Rybarcyzk, the metal bats produced about 10% more distance than their wood counterparts.

Remember, Harper is 16 years old. I think the kid will do just fine as he transitions from metal to wood bats on a more full-time basis.

Looks like David Wright with the foot twist to load his swing.

Key for him will clearly be his pitch recognition skills and mastering the strike zone.

He has easily got the power necessary to play this game at the highest level.

It's been said the fastest way to the majors is to make your mark with the tools of ignorance. Barring injury, or stupidness, Bryce has a bright future. Everyone who has ever taken a practice swing, envisions the ball jumping of the bat ala Bryce Harper. Pure hitters like Bryce, once signed, will be moved to the outfield or first base, to preserve the form that will be eroded the longer he stays behind the dish.

Anyone know Bryce Harper's birthdate??


Bryce has by far the best swing I have ever seen. I pitched for a collegiate semipro team and I never faced a single person that has the swing he does. I went up against big schools while myself coming out of a D3 going up against D1 I thought was going to be tough but no one was even comparable to the swing that he shows.

for those who want to shoot this kid down because he's a sophomore in HIGH SCHOOL, you should actually take at this kid. I myself am actually playing in the same city and have played against Bryce, the "man child" Harper, and find nothing short of the words amazing to come to mind. Do you realize that this kid for one, has the sufficient build of a Major League player already? what kid do you know that's 200 lbs, 6'3? that's right, no one. he's elite, legit, whatever you want to call him, but the kid is built for stardom. his brother is a couple years older than him and can contest to the same thing. he eats, lives, breathes, and sweats baseball. like the writer of this article said, remember the name, because in about 2 years, you're gonna be seeing this kid on the draft. And the joker who was saying stuff about metal bats, he's 15, and he's in HIGH SCHOOL, you're primary bats are metal, and even if he was using wood, he'd still be hitting moon shots with what seems like effortless talent, so sit back, relax, and in two years, remember the name.

Bryce Is not only one of the best baseball players alot of will ever get to see at this level. But he is an all around great kid! He gets after it in the classroom and is just a well rounded young adult. I wish the best for him as he starts to get into this crazy world of baseball...