Nationals Set To Draft Bryce Harper, Will Reportedly Move Him To Outfield

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo says the Nationals will take Harper with the first pick 'unless something happens.'

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Fangraphs: Moving Harper To The Outfield Makes Sense

It looks like our dreams of seeing a pitcher-catcher tandem of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper are gone. With the news comes questions of whether or not it's a good idea to move Harper away from his natural position.

Dave Harper at Fangraphs took a look at the hitting statistics of franchise catchers in comparison with other positions, and concludes that moving Harper to the outfield is a good thing:

Perhaps we've all been spoiled by the presence of Piazza, Joe Mauer, and Jorge Posada over the last 20 years, but in reality, there are just a handful of big league catchers in the history of the game who have been able to both endure a career behind the plate and wield an impact bat at the same time.

By all accounts, Harper's bat has a chance to be extremely special. If he makes it to stardom, it will be his offense that carries him there, not his work behind the plate. Moving him to the outfield will not be a waste of his value any more than it was when the Blue Jays moved Carlos Delgado to first base, the Astros moved Craig Biggio to second base, or the Braves moved Dale Murphy to center field. Harper can be plenty valuable as a power hitting athletic outfielder, and he can play until he's 40 out there.

In much the same way that the Nationals have been extremely cautious with Stephen Strasburg's pitch counts this season, the Nationals are going to do everything they can to protect the long-term value of Bryce Harper. Moving Harper to the outfield to cut down on the wear and tear he would endure behind the plate will help maximize Harper's output, both now and in the future.

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Report: Bryce Harper Will Likely Play In The Outfield

More and more sources are reporting that the Nationals have almost certainly settled on Bryce Harper as their first overall pick in the draft tomorrow.

According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, General Manager Mike Rizzo knows who he is going to select, he just isn’t telling anybody yet.

The projected number one pick played primarily as a catcher at the College of Southern Nevada, but Ladson is reporting that the Nationals will likely be moving Harper to the outfield.

If Harper is drafted by Washington, according to a baseball source, he will most likely become an outfielder. The team believes that Harper is an above-average outfielder with speed. He can play center and right field. Harper still needs to work on his catching skills.

Our dreams of Stephen Strasburg on the mound and Bryce Harper behind the plate may not come to fruition, but having these two on the same team will still be plenty fun to watch.

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Mike Rizzo All But Confirms Bryce Harper Is Their Guy

No video yet, but Mike Rizzo just said on the Nationals’ broadcast that Bryce Harper will be the Nationals’ first pick on Monday night "unless something changes."

Here's more on Rizzo's comments from Ben Goessling:

What's been assumed for a long time - and hinted at by the team repeatedly - is now almost official: The Nationals will likely draft College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper No. 1 overall in the First-Year Player Draft tomorrow night.

Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo told MASN sideline reporter Debbi Taylor that the team will take the 17-year-old Harper No. 1, barring any drastic changes. Harper, who's been on the cover of Sports Illustrated and ESPN: The Magazine, left high school a year early to get his GED and declare for the draft in 2010 instead of 2011. 

Without delving into what constitutes a "drastic change" I think everyone can rest a little easier tonight, knowing Bryce Harper is coming to the Nationals.

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The Nationals Have Reportedly Made Their Decision On The First Pick

The MLB Draft doesn’t start until Monday, but Nationals GM Mike Rizzo knows who the team is going to take with the top pick. Of course, he won’t say who it just yet:

“No we are not prepared to do that yet. We are going to keep the suspense until tomorrow night. It is not fair to the other players that are possibilities. We are going to keep that under wraps.

It is not the biggest secret in the world. Until we make the pick things change often up to the draft time so we are going to keep it (to ourselves)."

Although Rizzo didn’t officially say that Bryce Harper is going to be taken with the first overall pick tomorrow, his comments should help Nationals fans sleep easier tonight. It doesn’t look like Rizzo will have a last minute change of heart.

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Bryce Harper Looking for Record Signing Bonus

To use a hackneyed phrase, Bryce Harper would like the Washington Nationals to “show him the money.” According to SI’s Jon Heyman, Harper and super agent Scott Boras will looking to break last year’s record $15.67 million bonus set by the Nationals' very own Stephen Strasburg.

As Heyman is quick to point out, the $15.67 million given to Strasburg was only a fraction of the total cost that Boras was rumored to be demanding. To quote Heyman:

Of course, at this time last year, the scuttlebutt was that Strasburg might seek to receive a bonus in line with the $51-million posting the Red Sox paid for Daisuke Matsuzaka. And while Boras was believed to have drawn a comparison between Strasburg and Matsuzaka in talks with the Nationals, ultimately Strasburg signed with the Nationals for an amount that was slightly less than a third of what the Red Sox paid for the right to sign Matsuzaka (though still about 50 percent more than the previous record bonus of $10 million for drafted players that Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira got).

The question remains as to whether the Nationals will be willing to break the bank for two years in a row to sign Harper. The Nationals have failed to sign first round picks to contracts before, most notably their 2008 selection of Aaron Crow. Further, will the Nationals feel pressure from other organizations to stop raising the bar in regards to escalating bonus costs? It is certainly interesting times around Nationals Park.

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Word Of Caution: Bryce Harper May Not Work Out

With all the hype surrounding Bryce Harper, you'd think that he's a can't-miss prospect like Stephen Strasburg. The problem, of course, is that there are no sure things in the MLB Draft, especially when it comes to 17-year old prospects. Strasburg, at least, is turning 22 this July and is Major League ready right now. Harper, on the other hand, will certainly need a few years in the minors, and anything can happen there.

Nobody in DC wants to hear this, of course, but it's the truth. The great Joe Posnanski spells this out better than anyone could in this blog post. I'd recommend the whole thing, but here's the key quote.

Bryce Harper may be the best prospect in this year's draft - scouts almost unanimously agree, and I don't want to underplay that - but despite the overwhelming attention he's gotten it seems to me that Harper is not so different from any of the other "best prospects" in previous drafts. Matt Wieters may have pages and pages of Internet "Matt Wieters facts" - "Matt Wieters can have his cake and eat it too," "Matt Wieters once threw himself out stealing," etc. - but he also has an 84 OPS+. Alex Gordon is trying to get back to the big leagues. Josh Hamilton went through a lot of hell before making it through. Al Chambers, who was called a Dave Parker clone as the high school star in Harrisburg was was the first pick in the 1979 draft, is back in Harrisburg. I don't know what happened to Earl Cunningham.

Point is: You still have to hope a lot.

To be clear, Posnanski is not saying the Nationals should pass on Harper. And Dan Shanoff, for example, is right: the answer to a lot of these concerns is "So what?" But Posnanski is right - Harper is nowhere close to a sure thing, despite all his accolades. 

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An Early Scouting Report On Bryce Harper

Its almost a foregone conclusion that the Washington Nationals will select Bryce Harper with the first overall pick in next week's MLB draft. So lets take a moment to get to know the 17-year-old prodigy, with the help of the scouting report Jeff Bergin published on Nationals Daily News.

First, Bergin looks at Harper's college statistics:

In 215 at bats with the College of Southern Nevada, Harper has a .442 batting average, 88 runs cored, 95 hits, 29 homeruns, 89 RBI, 22 doubles, 212 total bases, and a .986 slugging percentage. A .986 OPS would be unreal, but this is a .986 slugging percentage. The homeruns, RBI and slugging percentage are higher than any player at the Division One level.

This is the empirical evidence of Harper's potential. Any concerns about age or attitude aside, the kid can absolutely rake. Its hard to imagine the numbers Harper would be putting up if he had stayed in High School and was facing kids his own age.

Bergin then includes what some scouts and GMs, the guys who actually make a living analyzing prospects, are saying about Harper. He uses a numerical scale GMs use to evaluate prospects, comparing Harper to a some standards teams have when considering a player.

Harper will possess the skill to hit the good pitches, recognize a pitch he cannot handle and destroy any pitch close to his zone. Think A-Rod type power and plate coverage. It is not unreal to project a 40 homerun season with close to .300 average without Ryan Howard’s strikeout rates.

Those projected numbers, and the ML comparisons he uses, speak volumes about how these GMs and scouts are rating Harper as a hitting prospect. He compares Harper's home run ability to the player who might retire as the all-time home-run leader, with plate discipline that could separate him from one of the game's other elite players in Howard. And you thought Stephen Strasburg had high expectations.

Speaking of Strasburg, when can we expect to see the Bryce Harper-Strasburg battery full-time in Washington? Bergin takes a final look at when Harper might be ready for the majors, suggesting he will likely spend almost two full years in the majors, and be ready to play in the 2012 season. He cites Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, and Alex Rodriguez as other young "phenom" players who followed that schedule through the minor leagues.

If Harper is half as good as he makes him sound earlier in the article, I'm not sure the Nationals will be willing to wait that long. 

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Nationals Set On Top Pick: Expected To Take Bryce Harper

With all the hype over last year's No. 1 overall pick, Stephen Strasburg, its hard to remember that the Washington Nationals have the first overall pick in this year's MLB draft as well. Even before tonight's draft, it appears the Nationals have already decided who they will select with the top pick, according to Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

The Nationals have settled who they are going to select with the first overall choice in baseball First-Year Player Draft on June 7, General Manager Mike Rizzo said. Rizzo would not reveal the player but told reporters, "We feel that we've narrowed it down to one specific person."

The overwhelming favorite based on the consensus in the baseball community to become the first overall choice is 17-year-old Bryce Harper. After skipping his junior year of high school to enroll of the College of Southern Nevada, Harper compiled mind-boggling numbers, including hitting four home runs in a 6-for-6 performance in a playoff game this weekend.

If you've been following draft buzz, or you're just a fan of amateur baseball, then you have most certainly heard of Bryce Harper. Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was just 16 years under the headline, "Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the most exciting prodigy since LeBron James."

If you need proof, this is a video of Harper during an all-star game home run competition. This shot went 502 feet and to this day is the longest home run in the history of Tropicana field, the home field of the Tampa Bay Rays.

 (via PowerShowcase)

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