Bryce Harper‘s debut is nigh. The Nationals will call him up Saturday and put Ryan Zimmerman on the DL. Though he wasn’t available in any of my 14 leagues, perhaps he’s available in yours. Should you pick him up?
Despite having all the pedigree in the world, the answer is unclear. He already has two things going against him before day one. He’s only 19 years old, for one. Here’s the list of 19 year olds that managed at least 200 PAs since 1980 and how they fared in their rookie seasons.
It doesn’t look great:
|1989||Ken Griffey Jr.||506||120||16||61||61||16||8.7%||16.4%||.264||.329||.42||106|
So, yeah, even great players aren’t great at 19. If he’s Ken Griffey, Jr with less speed, he’ll be lucky to hit .260 with 15 homers and a handful of stolen bases. It does mean good things to be on this list — all of ’em are good players — but it is also very difficult to be great in a year that most people are trying to figure out their major in college.
The second thing is that, well, Harper hasn’t been any good so far in the high minors. He’s hit lower than .260 in both Double- and Triple-A, and hasn’t managed an ISO that was league average. In 222 plate appearances across two years in the high Minor Leagues, he has four home runs and eight stolen bases. His plate discipline has been great — close to a double-digit walk rate and less than a 20% strikeout rate — but that isn’t really equal to all the hype he’s gotten.
The International League is a tougher league than the Pacific Coast League, but the Eastern League is one of the more offense-friendly leagues in baseball, or so the research said in 2010. Recently, it looks like the International League has become a little more pitching-friendly, and of course Harper’s age makes any decent numbers worthy of attention.
If he wasn’t Bryce Harper, we might actually be calling the numbers decent for a 19-year-old. His .239/.311/.373 in Triple-A this year isn’t quite league-average, though (.253/.335/.384), so we’d have to give him a lot of credit for his age.
Bryce Harper has a great future. His present might not be as scintillating. Re-draft owners could make room for him on their bench if they need a boost in offense and can jettison a veteran with less upside, but nobody should be dropping a very valuable player for this sort of shot in the dark. Keeper league owners will find that Harper is not on any of their wires, just as I did this afternoon.
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