Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Major League Baseball's Super Prospect

With the 2011 Major League Baseball regular season quickly approaching, fans begin to wonder which young rookie phenom will make a splash this year.  Steven Strasburg of the Washington Nationals created the buzz last year.  Steve Strasburg shed new light on the so-called ‘cannot miss, once in a lifetime prospect’ and reached a level of hype that nobody believed could be duplicated.  And then the Nationals did it again.

‘With the first pick in the 2010 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, the Washington Nationals select Bryce Harper!’  The rarest of prospects, Bryce Harper quickly joined Steven Strasburg as the face of the Washington Nationals’ future.  But what do we really know about Bryce Harper to already put him in such an elite category?  He is only 18 years old.  He put up absolutely silly numbers throughout his high school baseball career in a highly competitive Nevada league.  He dropped out of high school to get his GED so he could be drafted into Major League Baseball sooner, by the way putting up astonishing numbers as a JUCO.  And of course we know that the legend himself hit the longest home run in Tropicana Field (home of the Tampa Bay Rays) history at age 16.

Baseball scouts drool over Bryce Harper, but what do they really say about him?  Many describe Bryce Harper as a five tool player, a major league baseball body, and one of those ‘cannot miss, once in a lifetime prospects.’  Uh oh, red flags!  For you who have read Michael Lewis’s Moneyball, you all the can see the red flags as well.  High school baseball prospect.  Major league baseball body.  The dreaded label of being a once in a lifetime prospect.  Do all of those red flags remind you of someone?  Ah yes, Billy Beane.

Billy Beane was the super, Bryce Harper type, prospect of the 1980 MLB Draft.  However, if you ask the average baseball fan what Billy Beane did during his playing career, they would probably look at you funny wondering if he even played in the majors.  Contrary to the belief of some, he played in the minors with multiple unsuccessful trips to the majors.  Though Billy Beane was a freak athlete, he had a flaw that prevented him from ever being successful at the major league level.  His flaw was that he was never faced with a slump or personal defeat before getting drafted.  When he started playing in the minors he couldn’t handle the struggling and the challenges, something he would never mentally bypass and something that would ultimately end his playing career. 

Bryce Harper has yet to face a major slump or a personal struggle in his young baseball career.  With his first season in the minors upcoming, it will be interesting to see how he fares.  The point is not to say Bryce Harper is going to fizzle out of Major League Baseball and become a bust just like Billy Beane.  The point is to highlight that Bryce Harper is the exact same type of prospect that Billy Beane was and the exact same prospect that Moneyball says to be cautious of.  So, before we all give Bryce Harper our Hall of Fame votes, let’s just see what he can do in his first season.

-Written by Kevin Rossi

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