Friday, June 4, 2010

A Dream to Come True on Monday

Before the arrival of Stephen Strasburg to Nats Park on Tuesday night, the Washington Nationals will most likely select super-prospect Bryce Harper, 17, from Las Vegas, Nevada. Harper received his G.E.D last year so he could enter Junior College and be eligible for the 2010 draft. Harper hit 29 home runs in JUCO this season, and if the production matches the hype, Harper and Strasburg will make DC baseball crazy for years to come. It all starts next week.

Harper will most likely command a record signing bonus given to a high school player, but the Nationals must sign him. He plays one of the most important positions (catcher), and his power is described as "light-tower power." There are some scouts who believe Harper will have to move off catcher because they don't feel his footwork behind the plate is anywhere near ready for professional baseball, but the Nats should try him there for a few years before moving him to third base or right field. Harper has a cannon for an arm (registering on some radar guns at 96 MPH) and his power bat can play anywhere on the diamond.

Harper's quick rise to the top of the prospect world came when he went to a high school showcase in St. Petersburg, Florida, and put on a show during batting practice. He hit balls more than 500 feet at Tropicana Field (home of the Tampa Bay Rays) and was then put on the cover of Sports Illustrated touted as "Baseball's Chosen One: Bryce Harper is the Most Exciting Prodigy Since Lebron James"

Harper's star has elevated considerably since that cover came out on June 8, 2009, and he will most likely start his dream on Monday when the Nationals are on the clock. Many say he will take three or four years to get to the big leagues because he will have to adjust to the professional lifestyle, pitching, and overall nuances of the game, and I wouldn't expect to see him for awhile either. The pressure on him will be enormous, and the last thing the Nationals need are two young stars who feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. The Mets had that situation in the 1980's with slugging outfielder Darryl Strawberry and teenage pitching prodigy Dwight Gooden. Even though the Mets would win a World Series title in 1986, they quickly fizzled.

It's important for fans and media-alike to give Harper time to develop. After all---The Chosen One is only 17 years old.

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