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.