Baseball BeatMarch 23, 2010
Checking in on Bryce Harper
By Rich Lederer

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.


"...drawn 18 walks and struck out only 19 times."

I'm wondering why you wrote "only" in that sentence. 19 strikeouts in 88 at bats (21.5%) is nothing to be proud of, especially against junior college pitchers.

The number of strikeouts should not be compared to the number of at-bats. Instead, the number of strikeouts should be compared vs. the number of walks and the number of plate appearances.

A nearly 1:1 BB/SO ratio is outstanding at any level and a 17.9% SO/PA rate is the MLB average. Sure, Harper isn't facing major league pitchers, but he is two or three years younger than the competition.

Too early to draft him in fantasy keeper leagues?

I love that he's using wooden bats. I wish we could get all colleges on board with that...

"A nearly 1:1 BB/SO ratio is outstanding at any level and a 17.9% SO/PA rate is the MLB average."

Nope, Dan was correct. His SO numbers are VERY unimpressive for the #1 pick of the entire amateur draft.

Though his power numbers, with WOOD, are exceptional!

A challenge for Rich Lederer: try writing an entry without resorting to some form of self-promotion in any way.

And Rich was also correct. He is 3 years younger than the competition. Very impressive fora potential #1 pick, and makes his power numbers sem more impressive


Strangeness from the Pirates' Neal Huntington:

A. Is there any chance the Nats will pass on Harper?

B. Is Neal Huntington nuts when he says that Harper is an "unfinished riddle" and may not be in their top 10?


Thanks for the link, Mark. In defense of Huntington, he made those comments during the first weekend of February, which coincided with the opening of the college baseball season for Bryce Harper's team. As a result, the GM hadn't seen Harper play at the college level yet. That said, I believe Harper is a special talent that most teams would love to have the opportunity to draft. While Harper may be an "unfinished riddle" compared to Stephen Strasburg, he is easier to project than almost any 17-year old I've ever seen. No way he's not in every team's top 10.

I would be surprised if the Nationals passed on Harper unless it had to do with not wanting to pay another Scott Boras client an eight-figure bonus. The Pirates would be wise to take Harper if he is on the board at No. 2. However, Huntington could go in a different direction should he not want to shell out the big bucks or if he believes Harper is either a catcher or third baseman and uses the excuse that the club drafted and signed first rounders at those positions the past two years.