Kevin Goldstein wrote today for ESPN Insider about the top prospects in baseball and what to expect from them in 2011. Here is what he said about the Washington Nationals own Bryce Harper:
"No pro debut is more anticipated than that of Harper, who remains possibly the most hyped prospect in the history of the game. The terrifying thing about him is this: from his amateur career, to his one year of junior college baseball to his brief stint in the Arizona Fall League, he's exceeded nearly unrealistic expectations at every opportunity, so the same could occur at low Class A Hagerstown, which is Harper's most likely starting point. Forty home runs is hardly out of the question."
As Goldstein says, Harper is the most hyped prospect in a long time, probably more so than even Stephen Strasburg. The excitment that surrounded Strasburg last year was a result of his proven incredible ability. He had played at an international and top college level and absolutely dismantled any batter who had the guts to enter the batters box against him. It was very easy to see how he would be able to get major league batters out.
Harper on the other hand enters his first pro season with much more potential upside than actual proven results. Yes, the track record he does have is borderline unbelievable (Golden Spikes award at age 17...with a wood bat, great AFL Debut...) but a lot of the intrique surrounding Harper is a "what is this guy capable of," sort of feeling.
Frankly, I'm getting a little tired of it. Don't get me wrong, everytime I read something like the above excerpt from Goldstein I get really really excited...but that's just the problem...at this point it's like a tease. We knew Strasburg would make it to Washington within months of the 2010 season, and he did, making his debut in July. Harper on the other hand is so much more of an unknown. Even if he hits 40 homers in the minors next year, will the Nationals call him up permanently? Probably not.
When will the payoff be? When will be the Strasburg 14 strikeout moment when Harper officially arives as a National? Will it ever come? The only thing we can do for now is wait and hope.
In fairness, I was actually glad that Strasburg was assigned to Harrisburg instead of Potomac last season and on a certain level, would love to see Harper tear it up in ST and get to Potomac if for no other reason than that will accelerate the timeframe of his departure. I love the idea of seeing a bona fide hitter on his way to Washington, but it's far, far more satisfying when it's the kid "that suddenly gets it" versus a so-called sure thing. Not to mention, the throngs of fair-weather fans and hangers-on that Harper is sure to attract.
@nats_prospects Interesting point of view. From a developmental sense I can see how that would totally be more satisfying to see a player figure it out. There's something really special about the minor league/old school spring training atmosphere, it's like you're seeing it all come together before everyone else does...and I've seen how spring training has been watered down with the major growth in attendance by fair-weather fans/vacationers, and could totally see it happening to wherever Harper goes.