College of Southern Nevada catcher Bryce Harper was introduced to most in the baseball world via Tom Verducci's Sports Illustrated article entitled, "Baseball's Lebron", which quoted the then-16-year-old backstop saying that when his career was over he would like to, "Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait," but the quote from that article that interested me came from Mr. Verducci, who wrote that if Harper were to complete his GED and earn eligibility for the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft, and the Nationals were to, "...keep losing games at something close to their current rate (they have the worst record in baseball, and it isn't even close),":
"Washington could wind up with (then-SDSU right-hander Stephen) Strasburg and Harper in the next 12 months—the baseball equivalent of the [Cleveland] Cavaliers getting [LeBron] James and Dwight Howard in consecutive NBA drafts."
In the article Harper is described by an anonymous "National League amateur scouting director" as a once-in-a-generation talent just as Strasburg was in the year leading up to the '09 Draft, but the public perception that's emerging of Harper is in stark contrast to the humble persona the 21-year-old Strasburg presented as he went from the top prospect in the country to the Nationals' no.1 overall pick in the June Draft to the second-best prospect in baseball on most people's list following his selection.
Baseball Prospectus' writer Kevin Goldstein wrote about the potential 2010 no.1 overall pick in an article yesterday entitled, "Future Shocks: Bryce Harper", in which the BP writer expressed concerns about Harper's build, speculating that the 6'3'', 205+pound 17-year-old could grow into either a Joe Mauer/Matt Wieters-type or (god forbid) "a slow, range-less behemoth" like the Nats' own Adam Dunn, but the biggest concern, according to Mr. Goldstein, has to do with Harper's make-up:
"It's impossible to find any talent evaluator who isn't blown away by Harper's ability on the field, but it's equally difficult to find one who doesn't genuinely dislike the kid."
After Strasburg, who's routinely described as, "...humble by nature, sheepish toward the attention and quick to credit his teammates," as he was in a recent article by Washington Post writer Dave Sheinin entitled, "Strasburg struggles, dazzles and wins in pro debut", it must worry some in the Nationals' organization to read that Harper's described by one scout Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein talks to as having, "... top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents."
Will the Washington Nationals' overlook the questions about Harper's personality and instead focus on the fact that the 17-year-old catcher and sometime outfielder is hitting .401, (57 for 142), with a .494 OBP, .866 SLG, 13 doubles, 1 triple, 17 HR's and 46 RBI's over 43 games played this season? Is Harper's make-up a concern? Or is he just a 17-year-old phenom who's let the praise he's heard over the last few years go to his head? An interview with Harper was featured on MLB Network's Quick Pitch with Hazel Mae earlier this week. Precocious youth? Or "top-of-the-scale-arrogance"? Does it matter either way if he's as talented as it appear? You decide. Here's Bryce Harper in his own words:
Bryce Harper on which pitchers past and present he'd like to face: "I wish I could face Nolan Ryan, cause he was actually just filthy. Threw as hard as anybody. So that would have been a lot of fun, but probably now, I probably want to face C.C. Sabathia cause he's a lefty and I love hitting lefties and he's absolutely, just filthy...and if Chase Utley can do it I think I can."
Bryce Harper on role models: "I like all the older guys, Mickey Mantle, Roger Maris and all the old school guys, Pete Rose, George Brett. Just the way they played the game. It was just second to none. They just went out there and played every game like it was their last. Those were all the guys that I look at. Nowadays, I look at Josh Hamilton, Joe Mauer, he rakes, and Robinson Cano, I love his swing. Manny Ramirez, love his swing..."
Bryce Harper is Bryce Harper: "It was pretty funny when my coaches, Coach Higgy (CSN Asst. Coach Kevin Higgins), goes, 'You know, you're a test tube baby.' 'What do you mean?' and he goes, 'You have everybody in you, you have Jackie Robinson, and you have Mickey Mantle, and you have Joe Mauer, you have everybody, your parents just haven't told you yet.' We were just messing around, just joking around, so, I think I have all those guys in me, I guess. But, I don't know. I'm Bryce Harper.