Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fantasy Forum: The Bryce Harper Edition

For this edition of Fantasy Forum, I reached out to fellow
Baseball Blogger Alliance
members to get their opinions on the Washington Nationals phenom outfielder Bryce Harper and what they think is in store for the 2011 season and beyond. Here's what they had to say.

William Tasker (@FlagrantFan) of The Flagrant Fan says:
Bryce Harper sure was fun while he lasted. All the experts say he's not ready. He needs more time. But the kid did everything right in his brief time in the Nationals' camp. He said the right things, he handled himself well. It was a blast to watch. It would have been great if the Nationals could live outside the box. The fan interest would have been huge. But we all know about the clock that the teams have to delay for financial reasons. We all know about the history and that no eighteen year old has ever played well in Major League Baseball. But there's always a first time. There's always a phenomenon waiting to happen if given a chance. And yes, this is all emotion and the voice of a fan. Sometimes it feels good to throw analytical thinking into suspension for a brief few moments. But, alas, sanity and business has trumped the dream.

Aaron Somers (@BlogFTBleachers) of Blogging From The Bleachers says:
Ultimately I think the Nationals are taking a smart approach to Bryce Harper. Yes, we all understand that he is an immense talent and potentially an offensive standout before the age of 20 - something we have not seen since Alex Rodriguez. But, he is highly inexperienced and highly unproven to date. Allowing Harper to spend some time in the minor leagues will prove to be wise for a number of reasons. He will be able to grow and mature as a player - learning the professional game, coping with life on the road, adjusting to being an outfielder full time, and growing as a player. He'll also be able to mature as a person which can only be a good thing for anyone who is destined to be in the spotlight as much as he will be.

The Nationals have some solid building blocks in place to build around going forward - namely Strasburg and the two Zimmerman(n)s - and Harper will prove to be a nice compliment to that trio. The team is not ready to win it all right now, which further reinforces their intentions to let Harper gain some seasoning in the minor leagues rather than rushing him to the Majors. I'm not certain what their specific plan is for Harper this season, but I think we could see him on something similar to the schedule Strasburg found himself on last season. He'll begin in A ball, gain X number of plate appearances, and then he'll move up to AA. Again he'll remain there for a predetermined number of plate appearances before moving on to AAA to finish the season. This lets him gain some experience and confidence, work his way through the various levels of competition, and ultimately put Harper in a position where he can come into Spring Training in 2012 primed to win a starting role in Washington.

Kyle Phillippi (@Kyle_Phillippi) of
GCOBB.com says:

Bryce Harper is a great story, but he'll be nothing more than "a #1 pick" this season. He certainly has all the potential in the world to make it to the majors... but not this season. There's no need for the Nationals, who most likely will not compete in 2011, to rush him out onto the field for the simple fact that he will sell seats.

Let the kid gradually enter the big leagues, just as every other prospect does. So far, Harper appears to have a good head on him, but even the slightest bit of favoritism could cause him to turn into a young, arrogant player. Washington should treat him the same way as the guy sitting next to him in Single-A.

For now, he's got all the hype in the world. His time will come, trust me.

Dave Nichols (@natsnewsnetwork) of
Nationals News Networks says:

Bryce Harper is a phenomenal talent. He has great natural power to all fields, a good idea at the plate, and tremendous hustle and work ethic. He's an all-out baserunner with good speed, and as a plus, he displays a ridiculous arm from right field. But he needs to see more balls hit to him in the field as he adjusts to playing the outfield and learn the best time to throw to a base or hit the cut-off man.

He hit .378/.450/.556 (7-for-18) with three doubles and five RBIs in 13 spring training games, but most of those at bats came against pitchers not slated for the big leagues, as he was a replacement in each of the games he played. He more than held his own, though. He was hit with a pitch in his last appearance before being sent out to minor league camp Saturday, and after reacting to the sting, he calmly shook it off and took his base.

His spring training experience, coupled with his success playing twice a week in the Arizona Fall League, leaves most with the impression he won't need much seasoning in the minor leagues.

Before seeing him play, I had him pegged for the minors all season, as Nats GM Mike Rizzo has said on numerous occasions that they aren't going to rush Harper to the big leagues. The organization would prefer that he play everyday in the minors, learning how to be a professional player.

There's also the "old school" in Rizzo that wants Harper to ride the buses and carry his own bags and pay for his late-night dinners out of per diem like just about every other ballplayer in the history of the game.

But watching him perform during spring training, I could also see him dominating the low minors and forcing the team's hand. What Rizzo doesn't want to do is call him up and return him to the minors, so whenever he gets that call, expect it to be permanent.

Bottom line: Harper lives up to the hype. He's an exciting, energetic, powerful, dynamic player, and I expect his Major League debut as soon as the Nats feel comfortable with his defensive play in the outfield.

Jonathan C. Mitchell (@FigureFilbert) of
MLB Dirt says:

Bryce Harper may be the most talented position player to come along since Alex Rodriguez but we have to remember that he should also be a senior in high school right now. Historically, teenagers have struggled at the highest level. Does that mean Harper will too? There is only one way to find out. The fan in me wants to see him play this year and start in center but the realist in me knows he needs to start in AA and get regular at-bats against professionals before making the unprecedented jump to the Majors.

Scott Willis (@crazycrabbers) of
The Crazy Crabbers says:

Having gone through the torture of waiting for the anointed one to arrive last season with Buster Posey, I can certainly sympathize with Nationals fans. That being said I come down squarely in not rushing the kid. The risk of pushing him too fast into a level that he is not ready for comes with huge downside risk and very little to gain.

If he is pushed and struggles there are all sorts of bad things that could happen to him and the last thing you want is him to question his ability or plant the seed in the minds of fans that he is a bust. Look no further then Matt Wieters who is being called a bust by people that don't know much after being taped as a MVP candidate his rookie season. Patience and caution are in order here.

The reason that there is little to gain is because if he is really ready he will force his way up by tearing up the minors. If he spend a few months in the minors and shows that he is ready and makes a June or July debut it costs the Nationals a couple of wins but at this early date only the most optimistic would assume that they have a chance at contending this season. So plan for the future and don't put too much pressure on the kid and with that I would put an ETA of early 2012 on him.

Daniel Aubain (@COSFBA) of COSFBA says:
Clearly, Bryce Harper is a special talent rarely seen in an 18 year old ballplayer but it's clear that the Nationals are going to take there time to allow him to learn being an outfielder at the minor league level rather than take his bumps and bruises in the majors. This isn't the NBA, NFL or even the NHL we're talking about, where kids out of high school can achieve immediate success in their sport. It takes time to learn the ins-and-out of the what it takes to play in the MLB. The length of the season alone is a huge adjustment for most.

Alex Rodriguez and Robin Yount are two of the most-notable modern-day players given a chance to play at the major league level as an 18 year old and neither saw measurable success until years later. Does Harper deserve to be in the same conversation as these two Hall of Famers (insert PEDs arguement here!), only time will tell.

Readers: I'd love to hear your comments and opinions of Harper and feel free to make comparisons, statistical projections and/or wild career predictions. Oh, and please visit the contributors websites and follow them on

1 comment:

  1. Lots of good thoughts...but let's not get him fitted for his plaque in Cooperstown just yet.

    Sure, Bryce Harper's legendary 502 foot bomb at Tropicana Field a few years ago has a few million views on YouTube...but how many former number one picks have gone on to greatness?

    Would you be shocked to find out that since the draft started in 1965, there hasn't been a single number one draft pick to make his way to The Hall of Fame?

    It's true.

    Matter of fact, only four players that have been selected in the top ten of the respective draft classes have been enshrined...Reggie Jackson (drafted second overall in 1966), Robin Yount and Dave Winfield (selected with the third and fourth picks in the 1973) and Paul Molitor (taken third overall in 1977).

    All in all, a pretty good foursome...but you've gotta admit, it is a little surprising.

    And before you ask, yes, there appears to be at least three number ones that will be joining Jackson, Yount, Winfield and Molitor in Cooperstown in the upcoming years. Ken Griffey, Jr., Chipper Jones and Alex Rodriguez were all taken first in 1987, 1990 and 1993 respectively.

    But, before you start to ponder whether or not you should make reservations in Cooperstown some 25 years from now remember this...for every Junior and A-Rod that get selected first overall...there are two times as many Al Chambers and David Clydes.