Friday, June 11, 2010

Bryce Harper, Outfielder

The only really surprising thing from the Nationals' announcement that #1 pick Bryce Harper was that he would be an outfielder, not a catcher, the position he has played up till now.

The rationale goes like this: Harper's main tool his his bat, more specifically his power. His other premier tool is his arm. Catching involves a heck of a lot more than throwing, so if the team made him a catcher, it would take at least an extra year or two to get him to the majors than if they put him in right field.

Scouts say he's athletic enough that he could stick behind the plate, however, depending on how his body develops, and as a catcher he'd be a significantly more valuable player. Simply because there are so many fewer guys who can play catcher than outfielder, a premier bat at the catcher position is a much more important step to building a contender than getting a corner outfielder.

Personally, I would have liked to see them give him a chance at catcher, just to see how it goes. But then again I'm no scout, and I can see the arguments on both sides. And if Derek Norris continues to develop, or Jesus Flores bounces back, then the need isn't as great.

One other thing that I haven't seen anyone mention is that Harper's agent, Scott Boras, had made a very strong point in the weeks leading up to the draft that the Nationals should not consider Harper a catcher. Specifically, he said, "No baseball person in his right mind will have the guy catch."

Now, lots of baseball people in fact would have him catch, or at least they wouldn't rule it out. The Nationals have. So if Boras and his client really care about this as much as they say they have, the Nationals may have already strengthened their position in the negotiation over getting him signed.

That's because now, if you're Harper, if you refuse to sign and go back into the draft, then you not only risk seeing your stock drop because of injury or poor play, you also risk going to a team that wants you to catch.

The Nationals are giving Harper a clear, swift path to the majors, and assuming the scouts really do think it's smart to have him in the outfield, then they were smart to make the decision as early and decisively as they did.


logan said...

I am not quite sure what the significance of declaring a position when the player is drafted.
I am pretty sure A-Rod was drafted as a shortstop, and Rick Ankiel was drafted as a pitcher.

I am hoping that Harper was watching Strasmas on TV on Tuesday. I would think that would go a long way to selling him on the Nationals.

Kevin Rusch said...

yeah, there's good points on both sides of that. Here's how I see it:
1) shorter path to the bigs
2) more games per year
3) less chance of a broken finger or something

1) higher positional value
2) the performance dropoff from wear&tear is likely to come later in his career, when he's less likely to be playing here.

I think I opt for RF. Also, the way he's hitting, it's not out of the question he's playing in DC next summer, and the nats don't have much going on in RF right now.

Wombat-socho said...

Linked at Beltway Baseball.

test said...

Any chance you could do a recurring series of posts comparing where we are this year to last year? Both record-wise and talent. Might be a fun look at things.

Steven said...

Regarding Harper at OF vs CA, not many people have brought this up (and something I thought you might), but if he's at catcher, he will get to the league later, but won't he better in those later six years compared to the earlier six at OF, from an age standpoint (that is, say, the 22-28 Harper is better than the 19-25 Harper)?

Unknown said...

How much better was the 22-28 A-Rod than the 19-25 A-Rod? Is that difference worth the 3 additional year of injury risk in MiLB that might leave you with nothing?

My bet is to take the MLB ready bat as soon as it's ready.

Anonymous said...

"I am not quite sure what the significance of declaring a position when the player is drafted.
I am pretty sure A-Rod was drafted as a shortstop, and Rick Ankiel was drafted as a pitcher."

1. A-Rod was a shortstop for his career until he became a third baseman for the Yankees.
2. Rick Ankiel was a pitcher until his disorder got so bad that he couldn't throw the ball to first without rocketing it into the stands and whacking people so he became an outfielder.

Both of your examples hold little water.