Every so often a prospect comes along that is going to be the next great one. I remember in the early 90's when I read about Chipper Jones and felt that way. This is how I feel about Bryce Harper as I guess you can say, I believe the hype! I even got a t-shirt! But more importantly, what does it mean for fantasy baseball purposes and specifically NL only leagues?
Bryce Harper was the #1 overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Washington Nationals and signed a record signing bonus for a position player at $9.9 million. Harper just turned 19 in mid October, he's 6'3 and 225lbs and bats left handed. Harper loves to play the game and is a relentless worker. Last year in his first season of professional ball Harper tore up low A ball and then in mid season got promoted to AA where he held his own in 129 AB's before ending the season due to a hamstring injury. Overall in the minors last year Harper had 17HR, 58RBI, 63R, 26SB, .297AVG, .392OBP in 387AB's. Harper picked up right where he left off in the Arizona Fall League as he had 6HR, 26RBI and hit safely in 19 out of the last 20 games in the AFL and finished with a .403 batting average.
I read up on Harper at my favorite source for prospect information and that is Baseball America. I cannot recommend using Baseball America enough for fantasy purposes to learn about the prospects. Anyway, the scouting report Baseball America has is that Harper has tremendous power and to all fields, Harper has incredible hand strength. In addition to his power, Harper has speed and base stealing instincts (had 26 steals last season in the minors in 33 attempts). Some scouts wonder if Harper will be a .300 hitter due to his strikeouts but he will be a plus batting average guy and have a huge OBP as he has a great eye and draws a ton of walks (again .392 OBP last year). All I can say about Harper is read this outlook by Baseball America on their recent posting of the Nationals top 10 prospects.
BA Forecast - "Harper looks like a sure fire superstar in the making, and he has a very real chance to develop into the best all around player in baseball."
All I can say is Wow to that.
NL King Strategy for Bryce Harper for 2012 & Beyond:
Provided Bryce Harper is available in your league for 2012 and you are in a keeper league and you can draft minor leaguers, this is my strategy advice for you. Currently, the only starting outfielder we know for sure the Nats have is Jason Werth. Harper will most likely start the season in the minors. Not sure what Adam LaRoche's time table is and how healthy he is, as well as how much he will play. If LaRoche is healthy and will play 1B that means Mike Morse will play Left Field. I would imagine it will take a very big spring training by Bryce Harper to make the Nats on opening day but that would present an amazing opportunity for NL only keeper league owners.
If this happens I want you to set aside up to $14 for Bryce Harper on draft day in your auction league (assuming a $260 budget). You might say that is crazy spending $14 on a player who will start the year in the minors. It's not crazy talk, because I expect Harper to be up with the Nats by early June which would still leave 2/3 of the season left. On top of that I expect Harper from that point on to give his owners a $20 season which over the final 2/3 would translate to around $14 worth of value. There is also a very good chance that Harper could be up sooner and when he comes up put up $30 year from that point forward. So Harper would be a solid contributor for us in 2012 but also we would have a fantastic keeper in Harper for 2013 and beyond (depending upon your league rules on keepers). Starting next season I would expect Harper to be a $30 player, so a $30 player at $14 is quite a deal. That's of course if you have to spend $14 maybe you can land him for $12 or even $10 or even single digits in your draft.
Save draft dollars for Bryce Harper in your draft no matter when he comes up and you will have an absolute stud at a low price for maybe the next year or two or even three depending on your league rules. For those who watch the Showtime show Homeland this is called playing The Long Game but at the same time Harper will give us good value next year. The owner in your league who follows this strategy will have absolute steal.
NL King - C.Lizza