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Mike Rizzo scouts, meets Bryce Harper

One of the most pressing questions surrounding the Nationals -- and the entire sport -- this summer is whether Washington will draft ultra-hyped, ultra-talented 17-year-old slugger Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in baseball's first-year player draft on June 7?

The organization took an important step toward answering that this weekend, as General Manager Mike Rizzo scouted Harper in person for the first time, watching him play two doubleheaders for the College of Southern Nevada against Eastern Utah. Rizzo also met Harper face-to-face.

"I think Mike walked out of there with a good feeling about what the kid did," Nationals Director of Amateur Scouting Kris Kline said.

This weekend, Harper caught in two games and played right field in the two others. He went 6 for 12 with two doubles and four walks, which added to his outrageous stats. After skipping his senior year of high school to enroll in junior college, Harper is hitting .417 with a .507 on-base percentage and an .899 slugging percentage.

Some have criticized Harper's level of competition, which Kline brushed aside. "One thing I always have to remind myself, he is 17 years old," Kline said. "This is the best league he can play in, and he's dominating."

The school record for homers before Harper played at CSN this season was 13, and that came with using metal bats, Kline said. Harper has 21 homers in 186 at-bats this year, using wood bats. Particularly impressive to Kline is that the majority of home runs he has seen Harper hit have been to the opposite field, a skill few players at Harper's age possess.

Not surprisingly, Kline called Harper, "a huge priority for us." Kline first saw Harper play when Harper was 15, and he has watched Harper play 12 times this season. The Nationals' area scout in Harper's region has seen him 16 times this season.

This year, Harper's attitude came under fire following a Baseball Prospectus article critical of Harper's makeup. The piece quoted one scout that called him "just a bad, bad guy" and described another scout who characterized Harper as "among the worst amateur players he's ever seen from a makeup standpoint."

Kline responded strongly in defense of Harper's makeup.

"I think he's got great makeup," Kline said. "I have absolutely no problems with the kid's makeup. He's a great kid.

"Bryce looks like a big leaguer. He carries himself like a big leaguer. Does he get upset? Of course. He does hold himself to a high standard. I don't think he feels like he should make an out. Is he going to have to make adjustments? Yes. As far as his makeup, I think he's a class act."

Kline said he had read the article questioning Harper's demeanor and pointedly called it, "absolutely the worst, most ridiculous, stupidest article I've ever read. That was horrible." He called the unnamed scout quoted "gutless" for not giving his name.

Kline offered evidence for his high opinion of Harper from his time around him. Harper, Kline said, wakes up early to work out with friends and attends Bible Study on Sundays. Kline said Harper's parents are "extremely solid people. This is a really good family."

This weekend, with Rizzo watching on, Harper interacted with children from a local Little League and, "he seemed in his element," Kline said. "He seemed comfortable with that."

Given Kline's enthusiasm for Harper's personality and Harper's obviously towering ability, it may seem as if Harper is shoe-in to become the top overall choice. But Kline stressed two things: The choice will ultimately be Rizzo's, and the Nationals have yet to come to a final decision.

Rizzo will also personally scout several Division I conference tournaments, particularly the ACC and SEC, where most of this year's college pitching talent is stocked. Kline said the Nationals have winnowed their options for the first choice to three or four players, with Harper among the group.

"We could talk about other guys, too," Kline said. "There's other players. There are a lot of good players."

The choice, because of the immense attention Harper already has received, will bring unique pressure to both the player (if he's picked) and the Nationals organization (no matter what).

Harper's strengths have been well-documented, perhaps with more intensity than any other draft prospect in history. If the Nationals choose him and he fails, they could be blamed for not heeding the various warnings. If the Nationals pass him over and he delivers on his potential, they could blamed for not making an obvious choice.

And then there is the negotiation. The Nationals successfully negotiated with notorious agent Scott Boras to strike a record deal for top pick Stephen Strasburg last year. There already has been speculation that Boras, who also advises Harper, will demand a bonus that surpasses the $15.1 million the Nationals gave Strasburg.

After all of that is finished, Harper will actually have to begin his career.

"What if Bryce goes out and hits .250 with 20 home runs?" Kline said. "He probably didn't live up to his expectations. But that's still a pretty good big leaguer. We're not going to put any expectations on this kid if we take him."

The Nationals have about one month to make their decision.

By Adam Kilgore  |  May 3, 2010; 9:24 PM ET
 
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Next: A final thought on the Nationals chemistry

Comments

Great post

Posted by: theredskin | May 3, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

My guess is that the "front office person" who so dissed Harper is from a team that will be picking 2 thru 5, this year.

Ironically, Harper probably doesn't have as much leverage as the author of the article projects. The Nats are a team that seems to have a strategy (whether some of the posters believe in it or not) and the teams that are likely to finish with the #1 choice are not nearly as attractive (certainly not to Boras), such as Baltimore, KC, Houston...none of which will post big bucks (and B'more already has their catcher for the future). After that a new agreement, and who knows.

Posted by: mikecatcher50 | May 3, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

This weekend, with Rizzo watching on, Harper interacted with children from a local Little League and, "he seemed in his element," Kline said. "He seemed comfortable with that."
-------------------------
Not to be cynical, but was this done for Mike Rizzo's benefit?

Next up, kissing babies and helping old ladies across the street!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 3, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Can he play RF in Washington in September?

Sorry, I couldn't help myself with the one. Kidding of course!

Posted by: GoingGoingGone | May 3, 2010 10:57 PM | Report abuse

this kid is just too good to pass up - what a tandem that would be, stras pitching with harper behind the plate

Posted by: dls5kk | May 3, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

No. Freaking. Brainer.

Have you watched Wil Nieves swing lately? Who? Wil Nieves.

Posted by: Sunshine_Bobby_Carpenter_Is_Too_Pessimistic_For_Me | May 4, 2010 12:03 AM | Report abuse

"Harper's strengths have been well documented, perhaps with more intensity than any other draft prospect in history."

Two things: One: Breath into a paper bag for 60 seconds.
Two: Don't hyphenate adverbs. Compound adjectives, but not adverbs.

Posted by: Sec3mysofa | May 4, 2010 12:20 AM | Report abuse

"One of the most pressing questions surrounding the Nationals -- and the entire sport -- this summer is whether Washington will draft ultra-hyped, ultra-talented 17-year-old slugger Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in baseball's first-year player draft on June 7?"
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That was true before the Nationals started playing decent baseball. I'm hoping the Nats take him and have an unprecedented combo, like having Walter Johnson and Babe Ruth on the same team. EVen then, it will be at least 2 ears, probably more, before Harper show up at Nats Park. Last year's Nats team was so bad, there was nothing to talk about except Strasburg. Right now, it's time o talk about a team that is genuinel compeitive.

Posted by: fischy | May 4, 2010 12:55 AM | Report abuse

That should read:

Even then, it will be at least 2 years, probably more, before Harper shows up at Nats Park. Last year's Nats team was so bad, there was nothing to talk about except Strasburg. Right now, it's time to talk about a team that is genuinely competitive.

Posted by: fischy | May 4, 2010 12:57 AM | Report abuse

"this kid is just too good to pass up - what a tandem that would be, stras pitching with harper behind the plate"

Posted by: dls5kk | May 3, 2010 11:13 PM
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No way he catches in the majors. If he really is this pretrenatural phenom hitter, he'd be wasted behind the plate. Forget the fact that catchers take to big a toll on their bodies. They don't play nearly as many games as an outfielder. Get his bat in there every day.

Posted by: fischy | May 4, 2010 1:00 AM | Report abuse

"XXX's strengths have been well-documented, perhaps with more intensity than any other draft prospect in history. If the Nationals choose him and he fails, they could be blamed for not heeding the various warnings. If the Nationals pass him over and he delivers on his potential, they could blamed for not making an obvious choice."

Is this just a cut and paste from last year's Strasburg article?

Posted by: g3jr | May 4, 2010 1:24 AM | Report abuse

"No way he catches in the majors. If he really is this pretrenatural phenom hitter, he'd be wasted behind the plate. Forget the fact that catchers take to big a toll on their bodies. They don't play nearly as many games as an outfielder. Get his bat in there every day."

Posted by: fischy | May 4, 2010 1:00 AM
-----------------------------------------


Is Joe Mauer wasted behind the plate??

Posted by: g3jr | May 4, 2010 1:26 AM | Report abuse

g3 - Impossible to say about Mauer yet, but theres certainly a higher chance of his skills declining at an earlier age than if he were a 1st basemen. That is without question.

Posted by: Imjustlikemusiq | May 4, 2010 2:36 AM | Report abuse

If he can play the outfield wouldn't that mean he would be called up a lot sooner?

Posted by: richs91 | May 4, 2010 6:29 AM | Report abuse

No way they're not drafting Harper, unless he has a major injury between now and draft day. Just to talented with a bat to pass up, I don't care where he lines up between the lines defensively so long as he swings with authority.

Posted by: cokedispatch | May 4, 2010 7:25 AM | Report abuse

Had a funny dream last night: thought I woke up and went to WaPo sports page, as always, and saw big front page Nats picture. Realized it had to be just a dream, so went back to sleep.

Posted by: JamesWebster | May 4, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

I have complete faith and trust in Mike Rizzo. I think he has the best "eye" in the majors as a "scout". Whatever he decides I believe it will work out the besty for the Nats. I think Rizzo is for the Nats as Bobby Cox was for the Atlanta Braves. Turning the worst major league team with 106 losses into one the winningest franchise of the 90's and 2000's!

Posted by: bobilly2 | May 4, 2010 7:31 AM | Report abuse

I don't think the Nats need to go this route. The chemistry of the team is starting to take shape. Why bring in someone who believes he owns the world at 17. Strasburg atleast played in college against top players.....

Take someone else........

Posted by: punchdaclock | May 4, 2010 7:58 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Harper will have 3 years to mature in the minors most likely... to hopefully get over any attitude issues... hopefully by the time he is 20 or 21 we have our own Jason Heyward on our hands... I would hope Norris makes it as the catcher for this team and Harper's big bat can sit in the OF somewhere... lord knows we need OFs, too...

Posted by: Ghost7 | May 4, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

It would be a big mistake for the Nats and Rizzo to be scared away from Harper on the basis of comments by an anonymous scout that "nobody likes him."

Undoubtedly that anonymous scout's major-league team would find a way to like Harper in the draft once the Nats took a pass on him. This whole thing is a BS attempt to manipulate the draft by somebody who won't even allow himself to be identified.

Draft Harper!

Posted by: shepdave2003 | May 4, 2010 8:38 AM | Report abuse

It is my perception that the Nats' strategy includes drafting and signing Harper. Pudge won't last forever and Nieves, who may be a competent backup, is not an MLB starting-quality catcher. Pudge notwithstanding, catching is our biggest hole right now.

Of course right field is our second-biggest hole, and it appears as if young Mr. Harper plays that position, too. This seems to be an unusual bit of providence for the Nats, having the first pick right at the right time with the right player for their long-term needs.

Regarding any character issue, which appears from the perceptions of our own scout to be a falsehood spread around by a manipulative rival scout, I am sick of Washington teams drafting players based on "character" rather than ability. Remember Kwame Brown?

The only drawback is Boras. GOD I hate that guy!

Posted by: FergusonFoont | May 4, 2010 8:41 AM | Report abuse

In Rizzo I trust. If he feels Harper is the guy, he will take him. He sounds like a focused, confident kid. I don't really care if he is a little arrogant as long as he can rake.

On another subject, the Nats need a win tonight badly. They have had a surprisingly solid start but, I fear a slide is ready to happen. A win tonight could help prevent that.

I credit Rizzo with putting together the roster that has helped them start this way. Sure, there are holes in the lineup and in the pitching staff and with the cheap Lerners controling the checkbook that is impossible to avoid. But, Rizzo has done a nice job of putting professionals and grinder types on the roster to help make the team competative. Hopefully, this is a bridge to the future.

Posted by: Section505203 | May 4, 2010 8:57 AM | Report abuse

I wonder if he really is a 'shoe-in'? Maybe he is really a shoo-in.

Posted by: Section314 | May 4, 2010 9:13 AM | Report abuse

Did Rizz ask him if his mother was a hooker?

Posted by: shanks1 | May 4, 2010 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Ah, Harper will have 3 years to mature in the minors most likely... to hopefully get over any attitude issues...

Posted by: Ghost7 | May 4, 2010 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps. But I've always thought that money tends to make you more of what you already are as a person. If you're a generous person, having a lot of jack allows you to be more generous. If you're an ass, having a lot of money allows you to be a bigger ass, and get away with it. If this guy is arrogant and has a sense of entitlement before money, how's he going to be as a multi-millionaire?

I'm not necessarily saying the Nats shouldn't draft him. His talent may justify the risk. But if they do so, it should be with the understanding that his behavior may not change, and could, in fact, get worse.

Posted by: rbpalmer | May 4, 2010 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Hey Gang.., Shanks1, i dunno what prize it is you win, but it's yours! Brilliant!
Go Nats!!!

Posted by: zendo | May 4, 2010 10:01 AM | Report abuse

The Draft last year with signing Storen so swiftly was great, but to go through another last minute Strasburgian negotiation caused a lot of friction in the media.

Can't the Nats iron out the deal beforehand so it doesn't come down to the last minute?

Boras has the upper hand as this kid is 17 and can stay in school.

Posted by: dmacman88 | May 4, 2010 11:24 AM | Report abuse

"Is Joe Mauer wasted behind the plate??"

Mauer is getting Moved to 1ST base at some point

Posted by: JDB1 | May 4, 2010 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Boras doesn't have as much leverage as one would think. After this year the draft will be reshaped and a strict slotting system could be implemented. This is one of the reasons Harper got his GED and wanted to enter THIS years draft. Would he return to school and risk losing millions? Doubtful

Posted by: JDB1 | May 4, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

If memory serves me correctly wasn't the Detriot Tigers the last team to bring up a 17 y/o? If I'm correct Al Kaline had a hell of a career.

Of course in NatsTown, the Harper saga will be streched out until the stroke of midnight on 15 Aug. Then Boy-Wonder will be to late to do any meaning full baseball activities in 2010. He will be sent to the AZ fall league just for laughs, invited to ST just to tease, hounded by the likes of Boz, Shiner and the MLB Network just for fun. All while the brain trusts decides that the 18M they dropped on him will be better spent if they bury him in Vermont, Potomac and Harrisburg until he turns at least 21. Welcome to NatsTown Mr. Harper!

Posted by: TippyCanoe | May 4, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

This weekend, Harper caught in two games and played right field in the two others. He went 6 for 12 with two doubles and four walks, which added to his outrageous stats. After skipping his senior year of high school to enroll in junior college, Harper is hitting .417 with a .507 on-base percentage and an .899 slugging percentage.
____________________

Too bad Boz didn't see this before he did his piece. Power in Right Field, yeah baby! And he can share catching duties.

Posted by: dorseylaw | May 4, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

>"Is Joe Mauer wasted behind the plate??"

Mauer is getting Moved to 1ST base at some point

Posted by: JDB1

That's basically what you do - catch them while they're young, then move them somewhere else. Of course, Pudge and Bench were in the bigs around age 19-20, and dude will be 18 in August or whatever. Pudge and Bench never outgrew squatting behind the plate, but they project that Harper will not only get beefier, but taller.

Posted by: Brue | May 4, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

>"Is Joe Mauer wasted behind the plate??"

Mauer is getting Moved to 1ST base at some point

Posted by: JDB1

That's basically what you do - catch them while they're young, then move them somewhere else. Of course, Pudge and Bench were in the bigs around age 19-20, and dude will be 18 in August or whatever. Pudge and Bench never outgrew squatting behind the plate, but they project that Harper will not only get beefier, but taller.

Posted by: Brue | May 4, 2010 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Did Rizz ask him if his mother was a hooker?

Posted by: shanks1 | May 4, 2010 9:19 AM


LOL

Posted by: al_kohaulic | May 4, 2010 3:34 PM | Report abuse

Is this a joke questioning his selection? He plays in a "Wood" bat JUCO league. A very good league with guys that want to be pros. I keep hearing 17?? He'll be 18 this fall. At many schools this would be his senior year in HS. They draft top prospects out of HS. This guy's playing college ball and tearing it up. The thing to do is accumulate young talent and develop them. Look up 95. Look at the - Rollins, Utley, Howard, Ruiz, Hamels to name a few. That's the core of the team that came thru the draft. Nats have Zimmerman, Desmond, Strasburg, Storen now let's add Harper.

Posted by: Dog11 | May 4, 2010 3:44 PM | Report abuse

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