Checking in on Bryce Harper
After watching Bryce Harper in the Area Code Games following his freshman year in high school, I wrote an article titled Remember This Name in August 2008 whereby I boldly proclaimed that the then 15-year old would be the No. 1 draft pick in 2011.
Well, as it turns out, I am going to miss with my prediction. No, not because Harper didn't pan out. And not due to any injury. You see, Harper skipped his junior and senior years in high school, earned his GED, and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada last fall at the age of 17. As a result, Harper will be eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft and is likely to be the No. 1 choice a year earlier than I forecasted.
How is Harper faring in his college debut, you ask? Just fine, thank you. He has put up a .420/.514/.864 line with 8 HR and 27 RBI through his first 27 games. In addition, the lefthanded-hitting catcher/third baseman/outfielder has drawn 18 walks and struck out only 19 times. He is leading the No. 3-ranked junior college team in the country (23-5) in AVG, OBP, SLG, H (37), R (32), RBI, 2B (13), HR, and TB (76) and is second in BB and SB (6 of 8). [Complete stats here.]
I revisited Harper in January 2009 after he pulled a Josh Hamilton at the third annual International Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby at St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field. I displayed his sophomore year stats (.626/.723/1.339) in a follow-up last May, linked to Tom Verducci's Sports Illustrated article a month later, and reported that he left high school early and registered for college last June.
For the Washington Nationals (16-45), possessors of the worst record in baseball this year, it now means having the opportunity to draft the top two amateur prospects in the first 11 years of the 21st century. The franchise won the Stephen Strasburg lottery this year and appears destined to win the Bryce Harper lottery next year. Strasburg and Harper could be the most hyped pitcher-catcher duo in decades, if not ever, should they wind up playing for the Nats. If nothing else, the two Scott Boras-advised players will be the richest signees in the history of the game.
MLB's Jonathan Mayo, a former guest columnist for Baseball Analysts, has the latest goods on Harper. In an extensive interview with the confident teenager, Harper says "I could care less about the Draft. If I could come back next year and play here, I'd come back next year and play here." Bryce is probably right. Given how important playing professional baseball has always been to him, he probably "could" care less about the draft. However, I doubt if he "couldn't" care less, which is the point he was trying to make with Mayo.
With only 2 1/2 months to go before the draft, Harper's wait won't be long. In the meantime, you can watch Harper hitting his second and third home runs this season, as well as a third round tripper that also includes a slow-motion clip of his swing. In all cases, Harper is using a wood bat as College of Southern Nevada plays in a wood bat conference.
Believe the hype and be sure to remember this name.