Baseball “phenom” Bryce Harper was the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2010, he was the youngest player in major league camp and he had been hitting .389/.450/.556 through 18 at bats in Spring Training. Yet, the Nationals have optioned him to Single A. Looking at his track record, that’s probably wise.
Harper could be ready on the field, but it’s off the field where there will be issues.
He’s a man. He’s 6’3” 220lbs. He may be able to hit now, but mentally he’s still really young. Harper graduated high school early with a GED and spent a year at junior college majoring in baseball. He should still be a senior in high school. He doesn’t have the basic, state-mandated social experience to prepare you for adulthood. He has been a tunnel-visioned baseball prospect and a tea-totaling Mormon. He doesn’t have the life experience to be an every day player.
Scouts cited him before the draft for being immature and for having “a disturbingly large sense of entitlement.” Every 17-year-old is that way, especially one constantly thrust into stressful situations while being monitored and prodded like a lab rat. His “flaws” are being thrown into situations where he’s expected to be an adult and not yet being an adult.
His aggressiveness and persistent intensity also should be tempered. The biggest adjustment to professional baseball is that it’s a job, a perpetual grind. Even a juggernaut loses 60 games. Even the game’s greatest hitter fails sixty-percent of the time. The maniacal, unbridled competitor makes for a compelling column but that’s not necessarily the personality you want in baseball over 160 games. Players need balance.
Harper could be the next Alex Rodriguez. He could also be the next Jeff Francoeur or worse. He’ll tear it up initially, but his career will be decided by how he adjusts when pitchers figure him out. The more at bats and general life experience he has before that strife, the better. The Nationals are going to suck anyway. Even if he’s ready now, a year just living in the minors would do him well.
[Photo via Getty]