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Drafting Bryce Harper not 'etched in stone'

Catcher Bryce Harper, certainly the most well-know amateur baseball player in the world, might also be the best. The Nationals may very well take the ultra-hyped, ultra-talented 17-year-old with the first overall pick of June's First-Year Player Draft. But, contrary to a report, they have not reached a final decision.

"I don't think that's etched in stone," Nationals Director of Amateur Scouting Kris Kline said in a telephone conversation. "We're going to keep scouting guys until the end of the draft."

The Nationals have narrowed down their list of possible first picks to five, Kline said, and Harper owns a prominent place on it. Kline has watched Harper play in person eight times, and Nationals scouts, including assistant general managers Roy Clark and Bob Boone and have attended 16 of Harper's games with the College of Southern Nevada.

"We've spent a lot of time with Bryce," Kline said. "We have a good feel for what he is and what he's capable of being. But there's other guys we like, too."

General Manager Mike Rizzo, who will make the ultimate decision, has still yet to watch Harper in person, Kline said. Rizzo plans to get his first personal glimpse in early May. Kline said Rizzo would "absolutely" want to see Harper play before making a final decision.

Harper gained notoriety in scouting circles when, at 16, he blasted a 502-foot home run off the back wall at Tropicana Field during a high school showcase. He garnered widespread fame when Sports Illustrated put him on their cover and and called him baseball's LeBron James.

Harper left high school one year early in order to qualify a year early for the draft. Harper would be signed only after a difficult and expensive negotiation with his "adviser" Scott Boras. The Nationals were able to strike a record-breaking deal with Boras last summer in signing first pick Stephen Strasburg.

By Adam Kilgore  |  April 13, 2010; 4:07 PM ET
 
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Comments

The Nationals need to bypass Harper. Too young at 17 and too costly with Boras as his agent for a franchise that is still flailing around a bit to take a chance on.

This team needs as much of a sure thing with that #1 pick as it can reasonably expect.

Given his youth, no one knows where Harper will actually play once he ascends to the high minors and prepares for MLB.

I think after spending the money on Strasburg and realizing eventually resigning him will cost a fortune, you need to make a pick for a player you can see in the majors at a decent price in 2-3 years.

Harper is just too far away for this team at this point of its history here.

If this were the Yankees or Dodgers who had enough stars to fill the stands and contend year to year and allow a guy like Harper to develop over YEARS in the minors, it might be a different story.

If he didn't turn out, these teams wouldn't be crushed as they have the financial resources to move on.

Having a #1 overall pick fail would crush the Nationals, who clearly are not going to spend money and carry a profile that would befit a team operating in one of the largest and wealthiest media markets in the country.

The Nationals have decided to run their team like the Marlins and Diamondbacks, looking at players to develop or sign and then deal for more prospects.

And when they do dip into free agency the team ends up with the butt end in a guy like Jason Marquis, another junkballer to go along with the rest of the rotation.

Where is a 90 plus fastball with some location on this team?

After 5 years of rebuilding it looks like 2009 #1 pick Stephen Strasburg and former #2 pick Jordan Zimmermann (when healthy) are the entire organization's only hopes.

Posted by: leopard09 | April 13, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Saw Harper play in person a couple of weekends ago. For a JC team that is one of the best in the country, he stood out like a sore thumb. The only player on the field that made consistent hard contact with the wood bats, power to all fields, smooth at two positions ... nothing not to like.
Now, I am not a scout, nor do I play one on TV. But I have seen a lot of baseball thanks to some fortunate career choices, and I have to say, if Harper is NOT the choice, I would be both extremely surprised and extremely disappointed.
Hopefully, the "5 guys" bit is a little CYA damage control from the Nats front office so Boras doesn't start readying a new contract demand even more ridiculous than the one I'm sure he already has in mind. If Washington can convince everyone that the pick is not as clear-cut, then an out-of-the-water bonus would not seem as appropriate.

Posted by: mjhoya12 | April 13, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

If he were three or four years older, it'd be a no-brainer for me, but at his age, I'd rather pass.

And I know I'm beating a rotten corpse of a horse with this, but the NCAA has GOT to re-work its rules regarding so-called "student"-athletes and their "advisers."

Posted by: Juan-John1 | April 13, 2010 4:33 PM | Report abuse

Well of course the Nats Front Office says that. And of course it'll be Harper. Joe Maurer anyone?? Right out of HS. Uber-Athlete. He may be only 17 but he'll be in the majors at 19. Not much of an age difference between Maurer and Harper. They'd better take him. He can play any position on the field so if Derek Norris is the catcher then he's in the Outfield.

Posted by: billm32 | April 13, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Harper is a no-brainer and there is ZERO chance the Nats won't take him and and then most likely convert him into an outfielder. He, like Strasberg, is head and shoulders above everyone else in this draft. PERIOD.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 13, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

This organization is in desperate need of talent and if he really is the Lebron James of baseball then you take him, period.

Posted by: Section505203 | April 13, 2010 4:47 PM | Report abuse

@atLeopard

In this case the past is not prologue. The NATS have the mondey and slowly but surely they will spend it. More like Philly than Boston or Yankees, granted, but spend it they will as the Strasburg signing indicated. It will come down, is some better than Harper in terms of risk/reward (less of one, more of the other) or not.

Sec 204 Row H Seat 7

Posted by: adhardwick | April 13, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

There's a kid here in A-T-L Chavez Clarke who is reportedly a five tool player he has great genes first cousin to the Harriston's(Jerry) grandfather first black to play for the White Sox orginzation local scout's love this kid rate him right below the Braves 1st round pick Jason Heyward hopefully Nat's scout have him on the radar.

Posted by: dargregmag | April 13, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

leopard -

You say the Nats have chosen to run their ball club like the Marlins and D-backs. Isn't their whole plan to draft the best possible players, hope they can make it to the majors quickly, capitalize on the (cheaper) talent, and then deal them for more high-upside prospects when the time is right? It seems like Harper is exactly the type of player these teams would go after in the draft if they had the chance.

If the Nationals can avoid signing Harper to a major league contract, which I think they will given his age, then these years will be the most cost-effective of his career and they can let him develop at his own pace, at whatever position they think is the best fit for him. Plenty of guys change positions in the minor leagues (and some guys, Adam Dunn, change positions in the major leagues). Being versatile enough to play multiple positions at a high level is a blessing not a curse.

Ben Goessling over at MASN says the front office thinks he could be major league ready within 2 1/2 years. That would give him another 4 years before he is even eligible for arbitration.

Not taking the best talent in the draft with the #1 pick because you are afraid he might fail is like saying you shouldn't swing when you go up to the plate because you are afraid you might strike out. But you are never going to hit a home run (or a single for that matter) if you don't swing.

If Rizzo and the Nats decide Harper is the best player, they should absolutely take him. If they think somebody else is better, they should take that guy. It is as simple as that. That is the advantage of having the #1 pick, you get to pick whoever you want for whatever reason you want.

Rebuilding teams like the Nationals need to draft the best player possible and hope for the best because there are no guarantees with any amateur player.

And as to your question about where is a 90+ fastball with some location on this team? Maybe you have heard of him, Garrett Mock, he just got sent down to Syracuse.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 13, 2010 5:01 PM | Report abuse

Let me clarify one thing. Nats will definitely DRAFT Harper. However, whether they SIGN him or not is a different matter.
Don't have much faith in Lerners when it comes to following thru. Strasberg is the only time that they have. Don't even want to get into all the ones who have gotten away.

Posted by: dovelevine | April 13, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

If Harper is as good as everyone says, then he isn't as far from the majors as one might think based on his age. Look, A-Rod made the majors at 18. He's not the only one. Sure, Harper will have to learn how to hit professional curveballs. Why do ya'll assume that someone who hits like Harper can't do that quicker than most young players?

Posted by: fischy | April 13, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

doveline -

They also got Zimmerman signed to an extension. And apparently they are working on getting Dunn signed. Harper's whole plan is to get to the majors as fast as possible, that means he wants to sign this year. He is the best player on the best JC team in the country. If he was going to wait until 2011, he wouldn't have given up on a high school diploma. He's putting all his eggs in the MLB basket and he's looking at the signing bonus, which will be significantly less than Strasburg's last year. He's going to sign. I think the Nats actually have the upper hand in the negotiations on this one.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 13, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

I'm with Fischy. I've been keeping an eye on the kid for some time, and if he's hitting .421 to all fields with power and a wood bat, at age 17, then go get him. The ceiling is just too high.

Now, he's a Boras guy, so that's bad. But I believe the non-signing of Crow was the aberration -- Crow was a nightmare for KC too, and he's not really doing too well for them.

Anyway, I say draft him, and pay him.

Posted by: Section406 | April 13, 2010 5:18 PM | Report abuse

Who are the other top picks?

Posted by: Section506 | April 13, 2010 5:31 PM | Report abuse

good post by mjhoya12.

Posted by: nativedc | April 13, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Boras likes us now and won't hold our feet to the fire. One can dream.

Posted by: McLobo | April 13, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

If Harper is head and shoulders above the rest at 17, I think that he will be pretty good at age 20 +. It's a no brainer, living here in Las Vegas, I would love to see him in a Nats uniform!

Posted by: VegasJim | April 13, 2010 6:07 PM | Report abuse

I imagine nothing is etched in stone before Rizzo takes a look himself, but this doesn't seem to conflict much with what Goessing reported: Harper is the best talent available, and the Nats plan to take the best talent. At this time last year, they weren't promising they'd take Strasburg, but everyone knew they would. This may be slightly less certain, but Im guessing the front office already has a handle on what they'll do.

Posted by: jcj5y | April 13, 2010 6:54 PM | Report abuse

They did OK signing SS via Boras, so I think they can work with him. And as BillM32 pointed out, there's 17 and then there's 17. Of course you get him.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 13, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

As Ben Bradlee would say, "a non-denial denial". I'm ordering my Harper T-shirt tonight. He's da man!

Posted by: Section314 | April 13, 2010 7:17 PM | Report abuse

SpashCity,

The only location Mock can hit is either a foot outside or right over the plate, there is no in between for him.

Posted by: scotthr311 | April 13, 2010 7:44 PM | Report abuse

Don't even want to get into all the ones who have gotten away.

Posted by: dovelevine

Ahh please do I want to know.

I know of ONE that was such a huge disappointment that did not sign and he almost did not sign again the next year ......so I really would like to know who are the others we missed out on by not signing. I just do not remember any other names.

Bad picks do not count to this discussion BTW.

Posted by: CBinDC | April 13, 2010 8:43 PM | Report abuse

I cannot believe there are people who think the Nats should not sign Harper. Now that's scary, especially when they bring money into the equation.
One never knows how a player will develop, but this phenom must be as close to the real thing as it gets. And he should be ready for the big leagues quickly.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | April 13, 2010 8:50 PM | Report abuse

>Saw Harper play in person a couple of weekends ago. For a JC team that is one of the best in the country, he stood out like a sore thumb. The only player on the field that made consistent hard contact with the wood bats, power to all fields, smooth at two positions ... nothing not to like.

Posted by: mjhoya12

The key here is
POWER TO ALL FIELDS
say goodnight

Posted by: Brue | April 13, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

The official mascot of Thrifty Ownership is a fluffy little yellow chick. It pecks away at the floor in the Lerner offices. Sounds something like this: cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep.

The truth: they are terrified of Bryce Harper, just like they were too scared to sign Chapman. Parting with big bucks pains Thrifty Ownership, enough so to rationalize lots of reasons to pass on the Harper opportunity.

Anybody who thinks this is a no-brainer pick and sign just hasn't been paying attention for the past 4 years.

Posted by: howjensen | April 13, 2010 9:52 PM | Report abuse

and here I thought the little birdie lived in this blog...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 13, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

Three words: Arizona Fall League.

Book it.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 13, 2010 10:02 PM | Report abuse

They also got Zimmerman signed to an extension. And apparently they are working on getting Dunn signed. Harper's whole plan is to get to the majors as fast as possible, that means he wants to sign this year. He is the best player on the best JC team in the country. If he was going to wait until 2011, he wouldn't have given up on a high school diploma. He's putting all his eggs in the MLB basket and he's looking at the signing bonus, which will be significantly less than Strasburg's last year. He's going to sign. I think the Nats actually have the upper hand in the negotiations on this one.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 13, 2010 5:11 PM

Didn't we kind of use that 'desperate to sign and play logic' on Strasburg last summer because he did stay in school longer? If we're getting in the minds of Boras and the Harper family, maybe they wanted him out of high school and towards the draft earlier so they could pass on a team's offer. Year of JC and then independent ball before being retaken at 18 being the worst case.

All that should be irrelevant to me. The Lerners are paying jack for their market and operating profit. If he's the best pick - make the deal, like you did with Stras.

Posted by: Kev29 | April 13, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

This kid looks like the real deal, only 17 and hitting over .400 with double digit homers against older competition.

It would be a dark day for Nats Nation if we pass him up.

Posted by: Liebercreep | April 13, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

To be fair, I really think and many in baseball agree that the Nats thought the offer they made was more then enough to sign Harper. No one expected the reds to do what they did

Posted by: JDB1 | April 13, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Anybody who thinks this is a no-brainer pick and sign just hasn't been paying attention for the past 4 years.

Posted by: howjensen | April 13, 2010 9:52 PM |

So true. My prediction: We'll be in it until the end with Mr. Bryce. As StanK would say, "It's really as simple as that."

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | April 14, 2010 12:56 AM | Report abuse

When you have the number one pick, you need to draft the best player available. If a clear consensus is, as it seems to be, Bryce Harper, then the Nats need to draft him. There's always a chance he may not be what's predicted, but odds are he will be. It's not Sabermetrics, but it's as close as you can get with the draft.

Draft him. Sign him. And hope he's the next Joe Mauer.

Posted by: nats24 | April 14, 2010 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Exactly, nats 24. The Harper drafting is essential.

Posted by: jcampbell1 | April 14, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

Spashcity writes "Isn't their whole plan to draft the best possible players, hope they can make it to the majors quickly, capitalize on the (cheaper) talent, and then deal them for more high-upside prospects when the time is right?"

Actually, the Nats have made very evident over the past few drafts that drafting "the best possible players" is not at all their priority.
They draft with a budget in mind, and they draft players who will fit into that budget.
They definitely did not go after the best possible player with last years 2nd, 3rd and 4th choices.

The main reasons they might not draft Harper are cost and signability.
Harper has more options than Strasburg.
Thus he will cost more, and the negotiation will be more tense.

Rizzo knew last year that Strasburg and Boras, with essentially no other viable options, would sign the very respectful offer the Nats had made.

They have no such assurance if they draft Harper.

Posted by: Sunderland | April 14, 2010 7:53 AM | Report abuse

We were reading this same story at this same point last year, substituting "Strasburg" for "Harper." I think those of us who are actual Nats fans are pretty pleased with the way things went with Strasburg.

Bryce Harper precisely fills the Nats' most glaring remaining hole, a slugging, long-term catcher. They would be supremely foolish not to seize this so perfectly tailored opportunity, especially since we seem to have brought in Pudge to patch the hole until Harper is ready to fill it permanently.

The only sticking point is Scott Boras. BOY I hate that guy!

Posted by: FergusonFoont | April 14, 2010 7:57 AM | Report abuse

@Kev29

Harper and Strasburg are two different situations. I wouldn't call Harper "desperate to sign," I would say he is eager. With Boras as his current "advisor" and presumed agent when he declares for the draft, we should all expect the negotiations to go down to the wire, just as they did with Strasburg, but I fully believe that Harper is eager to sign this year.

Eager to sign.
Eager to get payed to play.
Eager to prove all the hype.

Everything he has done up to this point has been to get drafted in 2010. Passing on an offer would only diminish his value (as it did with Crow) and put him one year farther away from the real payday that is free agency.

The Nats can't be scared off by Boras' hypothesized contract demands. If the Nats want him they will pick him and he will sign for slightly more than the $6.1 million bonus Justin Upton got in 2005, but much less than what Strasburg got last year. My guess is a minor league deal with $7.5-8.5 million bonus.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

I don't think Boras is scaring anybody. If they're too cheap to sign the guy, I think they already know that and will draft "for signability." But this guy is eminently signable, as Splash and others point out. They signed SS, they'll sign their first pick this time, whoever it is.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

@sunderland

I was responding to leopard09. Leopard was the one who compared the Nats strategy to that of the Marlins and Dbacks and my quote that you cited was my description of those franchises' strategies, not the Nationals.

Boras knows that if Harper gets drafted, and does not sign, it will actually diminish his value because whichever team drafts him in 2011, will know that he won't want to have to re-enter the draft for a third time. His value will never be higher than if he gets selected #1 by the Nationals this year. If, for some reason, he falls to somewhere later in the first round this year, I could see him not signing and re-entering the draft to try to get picked at a higher slot.

I say again, if the Nats think Harper is the best player, they will draft him and he will sign.

SpashCity out.

Posted by: SpashCity | April 14, 2010 8:24 AM | Report abuse

And I think the jury is still very much out on whether Storen was the right pick; I think he may well turn out just fine. It is not always clear who the best player will be. Albert Pujols, and all that...

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Let's put it this way as far as his age is concerned. Players are drafted out of HS all the time. Harper will be 18 this year. He'll have already played a season of JUCO in a wood bat league!! He's leading the team in everything. My son played D1 Baseball for 4 years and they scrimmaged some Fla. JUCO's. Those JUCO guys were there for baseball and they could take on the best of the D1 teams. Also take a look at the Phils. Their core players who won in 2008 and 2009 are farm guys they drafted - Utley, Rollins (right out of HS), Howard, Hamels (right out of HS) and Ruiz. Harper is THAT good so you draft him. No question!!! Like Randy Quaid said in National Lampoon Vegas Vacation to the buffett chef - "Don't get cheap on me now!!!"

Posted by: billm32 | April 14, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

The Question is where do you play him? 3rd, SS, CF, C are locks. With Kobernus and Espinosa 2nd is gone. If Dunn is signed to to a long term deal 1st is gone. So that leaves RF, LF. Which is great, but what does that do to the prospects we have in A and AA?

I still say draft him.

Posted by: hansenjo | April 14, 2010 10:29 AM | Report abuse

nats will draft and sign harper. he's proven he wants to play up soon as he can. and he can't improve over going first overall. he'll get to the majors fast with the nats. and he'll get to arbitration faster if he signs this year. supposedly next top 10 players are pitchers? even more reason to take harper.

i've read a few places recently that even boras acknowledges harper is not equal to strasburg's talent level. that's nice to hear for a few reasons. strasburg is awesome and boras is reasonable.

i think harper signs for between 10-12 million and is playing right field before his 20th birthday.

Posted by: longterm | April 14, 2010 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, no it isn't. He's not even 18 yet, and by the time he's seriously competing for a spot on the 25-man roster, anything can happen to anybody. MLB draft is never (supposed to be) about need at the Big Club.
*********
The Question is where do you play him? 3rd, SS, CF, C are locks. With Kobernus and Espinosa 2nd is gone. If Dunn is signed to to a long term deal 1st is gone. So that leaves RF, LF. Which is great, but what does that do to the prospects we have in A and AA?

I still say draft him.

Posted by: hansenjo | April 14, 2010 10:29 AM

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | April 14, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Wait a minute, but do the Nationals know already that they are going to have the worse record or was this from last year team?

Posted by: PublicEnemy1 | April 14, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

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