As you have probably heard, baseball prodigy Bryce Harper is foregoing his final two years of high school in order to make himself eligible for the 2010 MLB Draft. Some say he is the top amateur player since Alex Rodriguez, and he will only be seventeen years old come draft day. The craziest part is, on that draft day, he could be the number one pick. Harper’s current talents are not under dispute; this year he batted .626 with 11 home runs, and 67 RBI in only 38 games for Las Vegas High School. The part that is up for debate is should a kid that young be able to skip out on high school to make himself draft eligible, and should someone select him at the top of the first round?
I do not think it is up to me to say what Harper should do as it is a personal choice, but I do have an opinion on whether I would select him with a high first round pick. No. He will be seventeen! I am already hesitant when it comes to drafting players straight out of high school, but this is madness. Way too many things can happen from the time he is seventeen until he is ready for the majors at twenty-one or twenty-two, maybe even later.
For example, let’s take a look at Rob Stock, a catcher who was drafted by the Cardinals at #67 overall this year. Stock was named by Baseball America as the best player in his age bracket at ages thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, and was also named the 2005 Baseball America Youth Player of the Year. He moved on to USC for college and, for lack of a better word, was terrible. In his junior year, he hit .226 with six home runs, not exactly the numbers you would expect from a player only four years removed from the Youth Player of the Year award. He is also the age where you would expect Harper to be breaking into the big leagues.
What people sometimes fail to realize is that some players peak very early. Of course a fully developed sixteen year old is going to be raking in high school baseball. By the time he is twenty and everyone else has caught up to him in terms of physical maturity, it could be a very different story. Outside of Lebron James, not many child prodigies have gone on to accomplish much as professionals.
The final reason I would not draft Harper is job security. Even if he does fulfill expectations, he is at best still three or four years from the big leagues following the 2010 draft. Not many general managers can be confident enough that they will even be around next off-season, let alone in four years. If I were running a major league franchise and at the top of the draft, I would go with an established college bat that can help the team within a year or two.