The Doubts About Bryce Harper

Baseball's amateur draft was shrouded in secrecy for decades, however publications like Baseball America and, of course, the internet have helped make the event more mainstream. If you've just started following the draft, you may have been spoiled by last year's top pick, righty Stephen Strasburg. Arguably the best amateur pitching prospect ever, he was far and away the best talent available, and it's very rare to see one player that far separated from the rest of the pack.

The top prospect for the 2010 draft is Bryce Harper, a catcher from Las Vegas. Harper should be a junior in high school right now, but he famously got his GED last year and is currently attending the College of Southern Nevada, a junior college that will allow him to become draft eligible this year instead of waiting until 2011. Through 16 games with the Coyotes, the 17-year-old Harper is hitting .356/.451/.712 with four homers and 11 doubles in 71 plate appearances. ESPN's Keith Law scouted Harper last month, and had this to say…

Harper brings two plus-plus tools to the table — huge raw power and an outstanding arm behind the plate. He has ridiculous leverage in his swing, even after mechanical changes made by CSN coach Tim Chambers, who has done a good job of quieting Harper's swing down and lessening some bad habits. He's not jumping as early as he used to, although he still gets his front side open a little too early and ends up hitting off his front foot, although his hand and wrist strength make that irrelevant from a power perspective. Behind the plate, he's good enough that few runners are going to try to steal on him at this level, and he's been clocked in the low 90s off the mound. On Thursday, he also received very well, with softer hands than he's shown me in the past and good agility behind the dish.

He also spoke to several people in the game, including one who had concerns about Harper's swing, "particularly the way he can drag his hands through the zone, and whether or not [he] could hit when facing above-average fastballs." In his chat this past Thursday, Law said the only draft eligible player he would consider taking over Harper is Texas high school righthander Jameson Taillon.

In today's blog post, ESPN's Buster Olney compared Harper to former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, perhaps the most polarizing figure in this year's NFL draft. On one hand you have those who praise Tebow's athleticism and leadership, but on the other hand you have those who doubt his ability to succeed as a pro because of poor throwing mechanics. Harper draws the same kind of responses, there are those that love his natural talent and those that doubt his ability to handle professional pitchers.

Whether the Nationals decide to draft Harper with their second consecutive first overall pick or not, they're going to be subject to massive amounts of second guessing. If they draft him and he flops, they'll get criticized for not doing a better job of scouting him. On the other hand, if they pass him up, they'll get criticized for not taking the best talent available.

As good as Harper is, there are certainly more doubts about his game than there were about Strasburg's last year, and possibly more than there were about Justin Upton when he was drafted in 2005. 


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68 Comments on "The Doubts About Bryce Harper"


5 years 5 months ago

To me, there’s something unsettling about putting so much hype on an amatuer baseball player. It just seems that there are so many moving parts into the success of a hitter and that projections are a very dubious science. Time and time again we’ve seen hitters achieve great things at a lower level and then lose the ability to hit when pinned against the top pitching of major league baseball. No other sport has had more misses with #1 overall picks than baseball. Look at these names from 1997-2007

1997 Matt Anderson (MISS)
1998 Pat Burrell (MISS)
1999 Josh Hamilton (MISS)
2000 Adrian Gonzalez (HIT)
2001 Joe Mauer (HIT)
2002 Bryan Bullington (MISS)
2003 Delmon Young (MISS)
2004 Matt Bush (MISS)
2005 Justin Upton (HIT)
2006 Luke Hochevar (MISS)
2007 David Price (MISS, still early)

2008-2009 have yet to see ML action.

If you look at the hits, upton probably had the most hype out of all 3 picks. Remember most people said the Twins should have taken Mark Prior with #1 pick back in 2001 and Adrian Gonzalez was a virual unknown at the time.

The point is, I think the top 20+ picks in the MLB draft all start on the same footing and no one player should garner such “can’t miss” hype because history has shown that “can’t misses” often miss.

5 years 5 months ago

On what planet is Pat Burrell a miss? In reality, the book is still out on everyone drafted from 2003 on. They haven’t had a chance to accrue six years of service time yet.

5 years 5 months ago

Earth. Is Pat Burrell a star?? I judge #1 picks with a very fine toothed comb. I feel the standards have to be pretty high and feel that Burrell has not met the same standards as say a Mauer, Upton or Gonzalez. Has Burrell has some fine seasons, yes but so has CC Sabathia, Matt Holliday, and Adan Dunn all of which were taken in 1998 as well. Mauer Upton and Gonzalez are clear top talent from each individual draft making the selection of each at #1 justified. Earth.

As far as 2003 on, I would agree with you here but outside of David Price, who could really be viewed as a HIT #1 pick from the crop of Delmon Young, Matt Bush, and Luke Hochevar?! In 3 years do you think the opinions regarding each will have dramatically changed? I’m mean honestly.

5 years 5 months ago

Burrell spent seven years as .371 OBP/.490 SLG outfielder that averaged 29 homers per year.

You set your standards to some level of excellence that isn’t there. Your three hits are Adrian Gonzalez, Joe Mauer, and Justin Upton, arguably 3 of the top 20 players in the game today. Those guys are the exception, not the rule. Guys with that kind of ability just aren’t available every year.

5 years 5 months ago

Sure they are. Hall of fame players have to be drafted at some point and most drafts have players that excell at a high level, the point is these players weren’t necessarily chosen with the #1 overall pick, the benchmark pick. Wanna put burrell in the HIT category that’s fine but I think the underlying original point is still valid. Hype at an early age can be a detriment and I think there is an inherant danger to this, especially in the sport of baseball.

5 years 5 months ago

So, what you are saying is that Albert Pujols should have been the first overall pick. Everyone should have known that he would become the greatest player of his generation and the best hitter since Ken Griffey Jr (a former #1 pick).

You are the person who is going to misjudge a guy because he was drafted low. The difference between the MLB and NFL/NBA is the level of talent and experience between HS/College and the majors. Most guys take between 2 and 5 years to make it to the majors, even some hall of fame caliber players. The Stephen Strausburg’s who can immediately make the jump to the majors and keep their head above water are a thing of the past. When you take into consideration that even the top picks are more than 2 years out from putting on the big team’s uniform, you realize that there is a lot more than talent that is taken into consideration when drafting the top pick. Some guys will get hurt, others will just not be able to turn their talent into productive careers. (Look at Corey Patterson. He was one of the most gifted players to ever wear a uniform who had one of the most disappointing careers that baseball has seen.)

That, is why we are talking about MLB, not the NFL. If you want the hall of famers drafted first overall, watch the draft at Easter, not in July. Even then, you will run across guys like ryan leaf, who was a bigger bust than any baseball player has ever been. (The same guy who was drafted 2nd overall preceding hall of famers in Randy Moss and Hines Ward)

leviticus6688
5 years 5 months ago

+1
Glad to see someone has some sense here. It’s not as if any given player who’s a top 5 pick automatically goes to the hall of fame. Expecting a top pick to succeed like Mauer is a good goal to have, but happens once a generation.

5 years 5 months ago

This is video gamer/fantasy baseball player logic. Or maybe trying to get NBA/NFL draft history to work with MLB. Whatever the case, it doesn’t fit reality.

Take some time to review the draft lists, for say the entire 80’s or 90’s and you’ll see how many outright duds are picked in first 5 and 10 slots of any draft. Finding a guy that can play every day and/or have a 10 year career out the the #1 slot (or top 10) is a success. Getting an all-star is doing very well. Getting a hall-of-famer is winning the lottery. It’s just the way it goes. This isn’t the NFL or the NBA.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

really burrel is a miss yet adiran is a hit? adrian who has only had a few good seasons now with average, and a few great with power. But he is still wayy too young to decide on him right now an burrel is nothing but consistant and has a WS ring to his credit?
Hamilton is a miss? when the guy is healthy he is one of the best left handed out fielders in the game…you need to re-adjust the way you think about these

you cant really call upton a hit yet, he had one really good season(this past one) and he go locked up just incase. No one knows if he will actually continue ..he has only been in the league 2 yrs how does he count as a hit?

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah Pat Burrell is no miss. Kris Benson should also be up there as a miss.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Are you kidding me?

David Price is young and for Josh Hamilton was injured last season.

Zack23
5 years 5 months ago

And Josh Hamilton had drug issues, not talent issues so to just look at say the Rays missed on that pick isnt fair.

5 years 5 months ago

You don’t think drugs can contribute to a player being a miss pick? So far Hamilton has done nothing but disappoint for the original team who drafted him, the Tampa Bay Rays. I bet that organization regrets the pick.

5 years 5 months ago

I said it was early on Price and Hamilton WAS A MISS. The orginal team that drafted him would LOVE to have that pick back.

ReverendBlack
5 years 5 months ago

I think you’d do well to emphasize the distinction you’re making here between PICKS WHO BECAME GREAT PLAYERS and PICKS WHO BENEFITED THEIR CLUBS AS MUCH AS OR MORE THAN EXPECTED. People appear to be disputing only the former.

Cosmo3
5 years 5 months ago

Correction: the team that originally drafted Hamilton would LOVE not to have let him go.

mattinglyfan
5 years 5 months ago

I agree Burrell and Hamilton are “misses” as far as living up to the #1 pick hype, but they still have been above average productive major leaguers. I think it is too early to consider Hochevar a miss yet.

5 years 5 months ago

It is early.

BoSoxSam
5 years 5 months ago

Great post, which seems to be the minority opinion, but still. #1 picks are assumed to be the guys who are better than hundreds of other prospects, who is good enough to star in the majors. You don’t pick someone you think will be “consistent”. Obviously it’s hit and miss guys, which is exactly what Brian’s post proves. Pat Burrell isn’t a bad player, that’s not the point; he’s just not at all the kind of player you’d expect to have been a #1 pick, while conversely, Mauer is clearly a #1 overall pick kind of player. Again, you can’t know what the players will be like at that age, but it’s just kind of interesting how each of these guys are hyped as “the one” when really you just need to remember that most of the #1 picks were gambles that didn’t pay off.

5 years 5 months ago

I’d put Burell and Josh Hamilton in the “hit” columns. Price is way too soon.

Burrell has 10 years and nearly 300 hrs so far – he’s not a superstar but it’s a pretty fair career.

Hamilton, despite his personal issues and the long track to the majors, has been a pretty fair ballplayer the past few years. Not exactly what was hoped, but he’s far from an outright bust.

Heck, I’d even be willing to cut Delmon Young a bit of slack. I’m prone to call him “lousy,” but there’s a chance he plays 10 years and gets 200+ HR. Not superstar numbers but he could be a solid career guy.

Ethanator99
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t know how Josh Hamilton and David Price are misses.

Price is 24 years old and pitching in the hardest division in baseball. It’s not even like he had a bad year last year, he is still learning.

We all know what Hamilton can do when he’s sober and healthy. Rake. If it wasn’t for those two things (which no one could have predicted) he would be great year in and year out.

5 years 5 months ago

Hamilton did NOTHING for the team that drafted him. He was a miss if there ever was one.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

he was hardly given a chance…he was picked by the rays then didnt make his major league debut untill 07 after the cubs picked him up in the rule 5 draft. Then traded to the reds…was not that bad for them, then traded for edison volquez to the rangers where he broke out…so drop the whote he did nothing for the rays thing

Are you saying that ever single baseball prospect drafted by a team should do something for the original team that drafts them? thats one of the dumbest things i have ever heard….players are traded ever year, thats why they are prospects…

he may have been a miss for the rays but the he was a hit for the reds considering he got them edison and the rangers he is not a miss becuase in 08 he was a beast and he was hurt last season…

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

so is strassburg a miss becuase he didnt make it to the majors last season?

friscofan101
5 years 5 months ago

Adrian Gonzalez did nothing for the team that drafted him. pat burrell has done a ton for the phillies. a big part of the team that won the WS. so from what you said above he should be a hit.

nymets4581
5 years 5 months ago

Awesome point. That list made no sense. Of course Mauer is a hit. But from that guys criteria he (and possibly Justin Upton) are the only hits. Adrian didn’t do much for the Marlins. And in my opinion Burrell should be up there too. If you look from the perspective of the Brian Bullington’s, the Matt Bushes or the Delmon Young’s, Pat Burrell was a great pick.

joethewest
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah, the draft is real hit and miss. But your list is a little extreme. It is impossible to pick the player that is going to be the biggest superstar with the #1 pick. You can’t expect teams to do it every year, and I don’t think teams even expect those players to turn into superstars. They hope but I don’t think it’s expected. There are so many factors into how a player becomes dominant, and some of those can’t even affect him until he’s on a MLB team.

Any player that is picked at #1 that becomes a regular starting player is definitely a hit. Price, Young, Burrell and Hamilton are all definitely hits.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Also I think the great thing about the draft, is that you never know. Mike Piazza was picked in the 62nd round. Pujols in 13. Clay Condrey in the 94th round. Domonic Brown in number 19. You never know. You never know. you simply never know!!!!!!!. That is one of the Greatest Things About Baseball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You always have to wait and see what happens with young players.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

mark buehrle was picked in the 38th..

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Orlando Hudson in 39
Ian Snell in 45
Derek Holland in 25
Ian Kinsler in 17
Tim Lincecum originally drafted in the 50th round
Freddy Lewis in 20
Adam LaRoche in 29

Anybody want more?

vtadave
5 years 5 months ago

No, that’s plenty.

ReverendBlack
5 years 5 months ago

This to me is what sets franchises apart in large part: the ability to find, obtain, and develop high-ceiling talent — even or especially when the likelihood of reaching that ceiling is relatively low (late rounders).

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

My Mock Draft goes like this:

Bryce Harper
Anthony Ranuado
Jameson Taillon
Christian Colon
A.J. Cole
DeAndre Smelter
Deck McGuire
Karsten Whitson
Levon Washington
Drew Pomeranz
Bryce Brentz
Delino DeShields Jr.
Alex Wimmers
Austin Wilson
James Paxton
Anthony Lorenzen
Chris Sale
Dylan Covey
Zack Cox
Kris Bryant
Brandon Workman
Stetson Allie
Victor Sanchez
Rick Hague
Nick Castelannos
Josh Sale
Jedd Gyorko
Manny Machado
Bryan Morgado
Yordy Cabrera
Kaleb Cowart
Jesse Hahn
Jarrett Parker
Kyle Blair
Trevor Bauer

mattinglyfan
5 years 5 months ago

Delino DeShields, Jr., haha, that’s awesome.

Ferrariman
5 years 5 months ago

Yordy cabrera will be taken sooner.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

Unless he stays at short, 20.

scott64
5 years 5 months ago

It’s also worth mentioning that Bryce Harper is putting up those numbers using a wood bat. The Scenic West Athletic Conference is one of the few college conferences where wood bats are used. No aluminum or composite bats allowed.

5 years 5 months ago

That’s great it’s still the Scenic West Athletic Conference.

Ian_Smell
5 years 5 months ago

God I hope the Pirates pick Ranaudo.

robert2727
5 years 5 months ago

Why is the draft in June when the season starts in April?

I’ll get tickets to see Harper becuase of all the talk but lets put into perspective that Derek Jeter was the #6 pick and Mike Piazza was not even on the #1 radar.

5 years 5 months ago

The draft is after the college and high school regular seasons end.

nymets4581
5 years 5 months ago

Yeah but Mike Piazza is an exception. He was picked 1390th overall (last pick in the draft) as a favor from Tommy LaSorda to Vince Piazza (Mike’s dad). Harper is going to draw plenty of fans in the minors. And you know what? He might disappoint. But that’s the way the game is. You can look at Matt Bush or you can look at Joe Mauer.

aap212
5 years 5 months ago

“If they draft him and he flops, they’ll get criticized for not doing a better job of scouting him. On the other hand, if they pass him up, they’ll get criticized for not taking the best talent available.”

Doesn’t this just sum up all high picks? Also, it’s not really fair to compare him t Upton and especially Strasburg, who weren’t just the best prospects in their drafts, but stone-cold consensus number ones, seen as easily the best players in their drafts (which was saying a lot for Upton, considering the ridiculously great draft he was in). I think Goldstein has done a good job of saying that it’s totally possible for Harper to be both the best prospect in the draft AND overrated.

robert2727
5 years 5 months ago

Why is the draft in June when the season starts in April?

I’ll get tickets to see Harper becuase of all the talk but lets put into perspective that Derek Jeter was the #6 pick and Mike Piazza was not even on the #1 radar.

Ferrariman
5 years 5 months ago

Jeter was #17

Piazza was. 62nd round pick

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

No Jeter was actually the number 6 pick.

Ferrariman
5 years 5 months ago

your right, i was looking at someone else.

but dang, piazza was a 62nd round pick…that just proves how much of a crapshot the draft is.

Guest
5 years 5 months ago

I just think it makes it so much more exciting. It means that every round is worth it you know?

Just_MLB
5 years 5 months ago

…and he only got picked cuz as a favor cuz lasorda was his godfather…crazy aint it

5 years 5 months ago

I don’t see him being a bust. Not to say he cant, but I think he could very well become an allstar. Those numbers dont lie, and as scott64 said, he’s in a wood bat league. The main problem with alot of prospects is that you don’t know if they’ll make the transition from metal to wood bats. He’s already doing it.

eedwards027
5 years 5 months ago

The worst is Bryan Bullington. After he was drafted Dave Littlefield (the worst GM in history) said that he was going to be a number 3 starter at best. Why in the world would you take a number 3 starter at best with the number 1 pick. What am I saying, Kevin McClatchy was a cheap ass.

Giants415
5 years 5 months ago

Hey if your gonna say that Hamilton didnt do nothing for the team that drafted him then Adrian Gonzalez is a miss too as he was drafted by the Marlins then traded to the Rangers then to the Padres he made his debut with the Rangers too so Hamilton cant be a miss.

aap212
5 years 5 months ago

The Marlins traded him for something they valued, correctly or not. The Rays didn’t get anything for Hamilton.

jwsox
5 years 5 months ago

becuase he was not traded he was a rule 5 pick from the rays to the cubs who instantly traded him

kherub
5 years 5 months ago

METS MUST DRAFT BRYCE HARPER!!!!

Encarnacion's Parrot
5 years 5 months ago

If Omar was given the chance to draft Harper, he’d find a way to screw it up.

Just_MLB
5 years 5 months ago

Harper would break his wrist signing the contract…mets on the hook for 40 mil

bjsguess
5 years 5 months ago

I don’t get why people are so critical of Harper. The kid should be a junior in HS. The complaints leveled against him all seem technical – something that could be changed with proper coaching.

What Harper brings to the table is unbelievable skills at such a young age. You can coach timing or a different swing type. You can’t coach his raw strength, speed or instincts. From what I’ve read, he’s just in a class by himself. Sounds like a perfect guy to roll the dice on.

5 years 5 months ago

If Scott Boras was a player instead of an agent, his name would be Bryce Harper. The kid doesn’t care about an education, just the big bucks for playing ball.

aap212
5 years 5 months ago

Way to be self-righteous about a teenager you don’t know who’s performing at a high level. Get a hobby.

Pogue009
5 years 5 months ago

Oh yeah because that History degree would be so much more beneficial to him and his family than a $50,000,000 bonus would be

Just_MLB
5 years 5 months ago

yeah cuz at the tender age of 15 u were wise beyond your years…harper is no different than any of the latin american teenagers who are trying to make it out of their countries and hit the payday…for them 100K is the big payday

Rich_in_NJ
5 years 5 months ago

I wonder if his asking price will determine where he will be drafted.

section3mysofa
5 years 5 months ago

In a way, you’re comparing apples to oranges. By definition, players are drafted based on what teams think they can do; grading the pick in hindsight is based on what they actually do. There’s a lot that can happen in between those two. Unpredictable things, improbable things, just plain unknowable things. What if Sandy Koufax never figured out control? Bo Jackson didn’t land on his hip? Kenny Hubbs takes a different flight? It’s not a linear progression. Like Annie said, “Baseball seems like a linear game with all those lines and box scores. But the fact is, it’s a spacious non-time kind of time to it.”

CaughtLooking
5 years 5 months ago

There’s no way Burrell is a miss at all. I did a post on this topic on Caught Looking…

http://baseballwheelhouse.wordpress.com/2010/03/07/is-pat-burrell-a-miss/

5 years 5 months ago

Is this all you can say? Maybe you’d like to actually make a contributable comment then? Say something worthwhile? It got a nice discussion going did it not?

ReverendBlack
5 years 5 months ago

Elaboration can be nice, but his comment is actually pretty awesome just the way it is.

vtadave
5 years 5 months ago

Sometimes less is more.