Bryce Harper, RF/C
BNH Prospect Ranking: #1
Overall: A+ (69)
MLB Comparison: Chipper Jones
ETA: Fall 2012
With the first selection of the 2010 MLB Amateur June Draft, the Washington Nationals chose junior college catcher Bryce Harper and signed him to a 5 year contract, including a $9.9 million dollar bonus, last August. Like teammate Stephen Strasburg (drafted first overall in 2009), he is wildly considered to be one of the top talents in recent MLB draft history
Two years ago, Harper left high school at just 16 years old, earned his GED and enrolled at the College of Southern Nevada—a Junior College heralded for its production of professional ballplayers. He left high school early, against the advice of many scouts and coaches, in order to be eligible for last year’s draft. With such immense talent however, and after being labeled the “Chosen One” (a title previously given to the NBA’s Lebron James) by Sports Illustrated in a 2009 issue, Harper felt prepared to pursue a professional baseball career.
After a storied amateur baseball career that included seven All-America Team selections, a Nevada State batting title (2008), a Babe Ruth Award (for his world record homerun at Tropicana Field in 2009), and the 2010 Golden Spikes Award, Harper made his professional baseball debut in the Washington Nationals’ Florida instructional league, where he batted .319 with team leading totals in numerous categories. Then, on October 22nd, Harper made his Arizona Fall League debut with the Scottsdale Scorpions—going 1-4 with a double while playing right field. As the League’s youngest ever player, Harper exceeded his lofty expectations, batting .343 with a 1.039 OPS through nine games
Strengths: (Bat-speed, Overall Power, Arm Strength, Hand-Eye Coordination): At 16 years old, Harper became a You Tube sensation after mashing a 502 foot homerun at Tropicana field during an amateur homerun derby. Though he did use an aluminum bat, fans and many in the professional baseball community lauded him for his immense present power and rare potential.
Standing 6’3” tall, built with a strong-yet-athletic frame, Harper has the ideal physical tools to become a premier MLB slugger. He has large, strong, hands and forearms, broad shoulders, and burly legs. His thick bone structure is conducive to adding muscle and will allow him to maintain his athleticism when he fills out. His body-type suggests that he may not be done growing, and he could be a hulk when he debuts in the MLB.
Harper uses his powerful core and thighs to generate un-rivaled bat speed. His fierce cut is his trademark, and few sluggers can challenge his present power–while even fewer could equal his offensive potential. The Las Vegas native mashes long homeruns to all fields, and he uses his entire body to produce impossible bat speed. He drives everything he makes contact with, and makes hard contact on pitches in all areas of the strike zone. Simply put, the ball jumps off of his bat.
Harper’s abilities with the stick are defined by—but not limited to—his massive power. His swing is levered yet surprisingly nimble for the amount of power he generates. His strong hands and shoulders have allowed him to develop premium bat control, and he covers the entire plate with his swing. His lifelong dedication to an array of batting drills has afforded him fantastic hand-eye coordination, and he’s able to recognize and make quick adjustments when facing premium pitching. His batting skill resembles that of a young Jason Giambi.
Harper’s game is well rounded and he has a polished toolset to pair with his phenomenal athleticism. His arm strength is plus-plus, his body control and foot speed are plus and above average respectively. He’s an asset on the base-paths where he is a fringe-plus runner underway, and in the field where his arm strength and impressive agility allow him to profile at premium defensive positions. His power arm mirrors his other talents, and when pitching in high school and in junior college, his fastballs were clocked as fast as 96 miles per hour. While the Nationals don’t seem to want to shorten his career by developing him at catcher–his preferred position– Harper will still be a plus defender at whatever position he plays. After he fills out, he should profile well in one of the corners, where his rare ability will make him a top tier defender.
Weaknesses: (Experience Level, Possible Makeup Issues) The young phenom doesn’t have a visible weakness at the moment, but isn’t completely without risk. As a teenager, he handled the mass of media attention that he received very well, and although his competitiveness borders on arrogance, he seems to be well-squared away young man. However, after he inferring that he’s destined for Cooperstown in an interview with Sports Illustrated, some worries began to arise concerning his makeup. Harper has rubbed some scouts and people the wrong way with his cocky attitude and could be setting himself poorly for the eventual failures he’ll face playing against advanced competition. Still, most scouts are convinced that he has the mental fortitude to handle the highs and lows of an MLB career, and that he isn’t any more arrogant than a young Alex Rodriguez.
Outside of his maturity level, the only issues left to for Harper to address are minor mechanical quirks. Some of his throwing and hitting mechanics are less than ideal, making him prone to strikeouts. His immense cut could develop sizeable holes if he doesn’t maintain his athleticism and hand-eye coordination. Although he has fantastic bat-speed, like all power hitters, his swing can still get a bit long and his homerun production could ultimately leave his batting average behind.
Overall: Harper’s tools and dedication make him a phenomenal prospect. He could be playing in the Nationals’ outfield alongside (newly signed) Jason Werth as early as summer, 2012. If he develops as planned, he could grow in to the Nationals’ own version of Chipper Jones, albeit with more defensive ability. Even if he isn’t able to realize his full potential, he’ll still be a slugging outfielder on par with a young Pat Burrell. Still, it goes without saying that there are multiple obstacles that even the best prospects have to overcome before even nearly meeting their expectations, and Harper’s road to the Big Leagues will be no different.