A Little Bit More of Harper

Yesterday, I tweeted two stories. Ugh, I can’t believe I just said that. Anyway, one was from MASN’s Ben Goessling, the former Washington Times sportswriter, and it said that “Barring an injury or a drastic change, the Nationals will likely take 17-year-old catcher Bryce Harper with the first pick in the June Draft.” Ok, we thought, sounds good! Then a minute later I saw The Washington Post put up a story on The Nats Journal saying “The Nationals may very well take the ultra-hyped, ultra-talented 17-year-old with the first overall pick of June’s First-Year Player Draft. But, contrary to a report, they have not reached a final decision.”

Ok, what gives? First they’re gonna take him, then they’re not. Or maybe not. Or, as you read it, you may interpret that after the first story, the Nats realized this hurts their bargaining position, and didn’t want to make it sound like they definitely were in the tank for Harper, so they wanted to back away from the “definite” part. But it doesn’t matter that much – they can’t trade the pick, it doesn’t hurt that much to say right now today they’re gonna draft him. Of course, Rizzo and company don’t need to show their hand if they’re not comfortable… And the circular argument begins.

Well Keith Law, America’s favorite snarky ex-scout, has a blog on ESPN following the MLB Draft. You can subscribe, if you have ESPN Insider. Back to the Harper part of the story, he made mention of the young phenom in yesterday’s blog post.

Law came down on the Goessling side, mentioning that he heard “that the Nats have, barring some catastrophe or unexpected turn of events, more or less settled on Harper, to the point that ownership has already been made aware that it’s their intention to take him.” He then goes on to make a couple of other points that haven’t much been mentioned but are extremely relevant to the discussion.

First, there is no “viable alternative” to Harper as a number 1 pick. There is no overwhelming prospect that everyone figures will go #2, so it’s not like they can point to someone and say he was a 90% solution at half the price.

Secondly, Law pointed out that in Arizona Rizzo was happy to take “big-ticket” guys who were advised by Boras. He was the one who basically had Arizona pick Justin Upton, a guy I’d be happy to have Harper compared to in the near future (Upton hit .300/.366/.532 last year with 26 HRs and 20 SBs at age 21). And he also avoided high school pitchers, which “is the strength of this draft” (other than Harper).

Finally, Law used the words “they’d be nuts” when assessing the Nats taking anyone besides Harper.

It seems to me the team is preparing ownership for the pick, making sure the purse strings aren’t too tight, and probably spending extra time assessing who’ll be available early in the second round.

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