On the MLB Network tonight, in a program that went head to head with Barack Obama and the State of the Union, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named the third best prospect in baseball by MLB.com. Bill Ladson of MLB.com reports:
“Outfielder Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, ranked No. 3 in the annual MLB.com Top 50 Prospect list, which was announced on MLB Network on Tuesday night. Harper ranked behind Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Rays right-hander Jeremy Hellickson…Harper, 18, has already proven he can play with professionals. He hit .319 with a .407 on-base percentage for the Nationals in the instructional league. He also led the team in several offensive categories, including hits, homers, RBIs and walks.”
Harper, 18, is listed extremely high on this list considering his only professional experience came while playing on the taxi squad in the Arizona Fall League. Still, his short pro debut was one of the most anticipated since, well, Stephen Strasburg. Both were extremely hyped after being drafted first overall by the Nationals in back-to-back seasons but the real difference here was experience and age. Strasburg had three college seasons under his belt and at the age of 21, was expected to storm into the majors as quickly as the Nationals would let him. Harper on the other hand was drafted extremely young as he skipped his final two years of high school to enter college early. With just one year of junior college under his belt he declared for the draft at just 17.
Despite his age, Harper continues to surprise both his critics that doubt him, and the scouts that judge him. Few thought the Nationals would give Harper a chance at all in the AFL, even fewer thought he would hit .343 with a homer and 11 RBI.
The young outfielders combination of power, speed, and desire have drawn many to speculate that he could one day become the best position player in baseball. Given that, if this were the list of the players with the most potential, Harper would unquestionably be at the top of the list. However, prospects must also have projectability, which is why Hellickson and Trout were listed ahead of him on this list. They both have longer track records in the minor leagues and are closer to the majors.
That all could change with a couple of months of minor league experience under Harper’s belt however. He put up unbelievable numbers in high school, forcing him to enter junior college two years early. In college he had one of the best single seasons for any collegiate player ever, batting .443 while hitting 31 home runs with a wood bat and earning the coveted Golden Spikes Award. How long will it take him to master the minor leagues? Time will tell…