Shortly after the Washington Nationals' made College of Southern Nevada catcher/outfielder Bryce Harper the no.1 pick on the 2010 MLB Draft, the Nats' announced that the 17-year-old phenom would be an outfielder in their organization. MLB.com's Bill Ladson began the post-pick press conference with the Nats' GM Mike Rizzo, Asst. GM Roy Clark and Scouting Director Kris Kline by asking DC GM Mike Rizzo why they weren't going to have him catch:
Mike Rizzo: "I think we made the early decision that we're going to take the rigors and the pressure of learning the difficult position of catcher away from him and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game and let his athleticism take over as an outfielder. He's got above average speed and a plus plus throwing arm. We believe that he could pull off being a major league catcher. We think his bat is well ahead of his defense as a catcher, and with the rigors of the game of catching, the squatting, the beating that they take behind the plate, we just think that it will accelerate his development in the minor leagues and also extend his career as a major leaguer."
• What about his character?
Mike Rizzo: "We think, this kid is a baseball rat. We've got a great foundation on where's the kid's from. We know him as well as any team in baseball can know a player. We've been scouting for a long time, we've done a lot of homework on his character, his family background and that type of stuff. The college coach over there (CSN coach Tim Chambers) is a good friend of Roy Clark's and has been with him for many, many years, we know him inside and out and this kid gets after it like few amateur players have since I've been doing this. He's a great kid, he's a very spiritual kid, solid family background, good parents and he's a guy that we've got high expectations not only [for] his tools, but his makeup, teammates and his character."
• Is Bryce Harper On Board With Being An Outfielder?
Mike Rizzo: "We really haven't discussed it with him, in the long term I know his representative was aware of what our plans were, the player has acknowledged it, and we're all on the same page as far as what it does for his player development."
• When Did You Decide That Harper Would Be The No.1 Pick?
Mike Rizzo: "Well, on the plane home from Vegas when I saw him play. The three of us discussed it shortly after I landed and we kind of cemented that he was the guy that we were going to take."
• Are You Assuming He Won't Sign Before The Deadline?
Mike Rizzo: "I have not thought that far ahead, he's a player that wants to get out and play. He's the type of guy that does not enjoy idle time. We have hopes getting him on to play sooner than August 15th."
• Talk About Taking Strasburg And Harper In Back To Back Drafts?
Mike Rizzo: "It is a unique situation, first of all, it's never happened before in the history of the Draft, to have the first pick two years in a row, it shows the struggles that we've had on the major league side the last couple of years and the rule change that allowed us to get the top pick in the last two years, but I can't remember where in back-to-back years, there's been two players [who have] separated themselves from the field the way that Strasburg did in '09 and Harper does in '10. So, in that respect it is very, very unique, I think it's a lucky time to have two no.1 picks overall because there was such impact players and the decisions were very, very cut and dry..."
• Will Harper Be A RF?
Mike Rizzo: "I think ultimately, he's a prototypical package for a middle-of-the-lineup, power-hitting, strong-armed, right fielder. So, that's kind of where I see him in my mind's eye. A lot of things can change by the time he gets to the big leagues, but he certainly has all the capabilities in the package to be an impact corner outfielder."
• How Does His Year Of JUCO Baseball Affect His Development?
Mike Rizzo: "The junior college portion of it shows that he can handle the accelerated players, not only of his age group, but players that are much older than him. Utilizing the wooden bat is, I think a big advantage that he has over other 17-year-old players. But the fact that he is a 17-year-old and he's going to be a 17-year-old throughout the whole season, so he would be even considered a young 17-year-old player in the draft. So, we're going to take that into account as you've seen with other players we've developed. We're certainly not going to rush him. We're going to develop him the right way, by our time line, by our development curve and we're not going to move him until we feel that he's mastered where he's been and when he's done so we'll move him accordingly."
• Young As Harper Is Did You Ever Think Twice About Drafting Him?
Mike Rizzo: "No, we never had any discussion about that. I've drafted 17-year-olds before, Justin Upton was about the same age as Bryce at the time I took him with the Diamondbacks, and he was a high school player, high-ceiling tools guy, and he was in the big leagues at 19-years-old, so each player develops differently, each make-up is different and we're going to develop him specifically to the development needs of Bryce Harper, and we pride ourselves on the way we scout and this case will be no different."
• If Harper Signs, Where Would He Start In The System?
Mike Rizzo: "I think he would probably start off in our lowest level, in the Gulf Coast League. I think that's a prudent way to get his feet on the ground in professional baseball, because as I've said many, many times, the rigors of the professional game, the everyday-ness of professional baseball is really the first thing that a professional player has to overcome."
• Have You Learned Anything With Strasburg's Development That Will Help With Harper?
Mike Rizzo: "We're going to protect the player. We're going to limit access if we feel that it interferes with what we're trying to do, and we make no apologies for it. This is all about getting the players to maximize their development, to expedite their development, but in a careful, prudent, calculated way to get them to the right place at the right time and ultimately to help us perform here in the major leagues."
• Is It A Possibility That He'll Be Playing Before The Deadline?
Mike Rizzo: "We're going to put our best effort forward, we know that we've got a player that wants to play, we've got a representative that we've dealt with successfully in the past, so we're going to give it our best effort I think on all sides."
• Looking Back, Will The Last Two Drafts Be A Turning Point In The Team's History?
Mike Rizzo: "There's certainly, whenever you pick one and one, it'd better be an impactful day in the history so, we felt we got a good start in 2009, we think we had an impactful draft there, the years will tell us if we were right or wrong and this year we plan as having as impactful or more of an impactful draft than we did in 2009."
• Finally, Are There Any Concerns About His Character?
Mike Rizzo: "There are no concerns about this player's makeup, we are sold on him and the family, the character of the player, he acts like a 17-year-old at times, I don't want to tell you what I did at 17, so, you know, he's mature beyond his years as far as performance on the field, tools, development, and even his social skills, this guy has had more hype and more publicity than most 25-year-olds have had already and I think he's handled it remarkably, between the lines, he's going 110mph all the time, he's a baseball rat, I love the way he gets after it. A big mark you can look at on what people think of this guy, ask his teammates. His teammates (at CSN) in honor of Bryce, all wore the war paint, and all gave the "3-4" as they crossed home plate and they were very, very supportive of him, even though he did a thing that probably was not the smartest thing in the world, getting kicked out of the game. But, you know, live and learn. We're satisfied and excited and honored to have this guy in the organization. We think he's going to be a big character guy for us and an impactful player, and not only on the field, but in the clubhouse and in the community."
• Will He Be Allowed To Wear The War Paint?
Mike Rizzo: "No."
• What Did You See In Las Vegas That Conviced You That He Was The One?
Mike Rizzo: "I go in there with a blank slate. I didn't read any of our reports. I saw a little bit of video on him. I just wanted to go in there with a clear slate and a clear mind, and see what I saw and just kind of use my experience to slot him where I believe he went, and when I got back the three of us discussed it and it was a pretty a decision who we were going to take no.1."