Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): Potential to contend for MVP awards in his early 20s thanks to a crazy offensive ceiling centered on truly elite power.
The Player: Bryce Harper (OF, Washington Nationals) – Harper has received more hype than any prospect in memory. He passed the GED and left high school early to enroll at the College of Southern Nevada as a 17-year old. After demolishing the record books in a wood bat league at that age he was the top pick in the 2010 draft. Despite insane expectation, Harper managed to be as good as advertised with a .318/.423/.554 line in A-ball and then holding his own and making adjustments in a 37 game trial at Double-A to close his first professional season.
Body: Physically imposing with a sculpted body that belies his age. Tons of strength from head to toe with surprising athleticism for his size.
Makeup: Frequently criticized for an attitude that steps past confident and cocky and lands squarely in the realm of arrogant. Intense competitor, emotions clearly take control on the field and can lead to displays that anger opponents – and fans. Will never be a saint but should be more controlled with more experience and maturity. Though he gets criticized for his makeup, it shouldn’t keep him from being an elite player.
Hit: Ultra-aggressive swing that approaches violence. Elite bat speed. Forearm and wrist strength are off the charts and allow him to manipulate the bat despite the aggression in his swing. Surprised scouts with his hitting ability in 2011 but still has plenty of swing and miss in his game. Unlikely to be a plus-plus hitter like he was in A-ball and should settle in as an average to solid-average bat; more than enough for power to play. Grade – 40/50
Power: Top of the scale. Off the charts. Pick a way to describe it, his power is an easy 80 and it should play at that level from the early stages of his career. Nearly all contact is loud. Can drive the ball out without squaring it. Potential for 40+ home runs. Could be the premier power hitter in the game. Grade (raw power) – 80/80
Arm: A second elite tool. Can throw it on a line from anywhere with tremendous velocity. Takes a while to get rid of the ball and lacks accuracy but the raw strength compensates for some of that. Has the athleticism to improve his throws and should be expected to with more experience. Grade – 70/80
Fielding: Showed a good feel for the outfield despite just moving there after the draft. Read the ball well off the bat, got better jumps as the year went along and took improved routes as well. Showed potential to be a plus defender with a classic right field defensive profile. Grade – 50/60
Speed: Solid runner. Questions about how his body develops and what it does to his speed. Very few scouts believe he will maintain even average speed. Good instincts will compensate for some loss of speed. Not a big part of his game and becoming a below-average runner won’t severely impact his defensive profile and will have almost no impact on his offensive profile. Grade – 50/40
Summation: Generational talent. Offensive profile suggests a potential .275 hitter with 35-40 home runs annually, along with plenty of strikeouts and likely plenty of walks as teams begin to pitch him more carefully. Makes adjustments quickly and should handle any initial struggles without much trouble. Makeup concerns are a bit overblown and will always be highlighted. Has been protected from dealing with media and must learn to handle that pressure and the difficult questions that come with it. Elite talent that should be a contributor from the minute he steps on a big league field.
Relative Risk: Moderate. Tempted to give him a low risk level but there are still some questions about how much his hit tool will play against top level pitchers.
Future: With a loud spring training performance Harper could conceivably break camp with the big club. Though that possibility seems remote, Harper is very likely to make his MLB debut in 2012 at age 19 (he doesn’t turn 20 until after the season). If 2012 is an adjustment year against Triple-A and MLB pitching, then 2013 could be the start of a truly impressive career filled with gaudy power numbers. Through his prime, Harper will be the best candidate in baseball to crank 50 homers in the depressed offensive environment that baseball currently resides in.