Bryce Harper Up; Leave Him on Wire?

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
1991 Ivan Rodriguez 288 74 3 24 27 1.7% 14.6% .264 .276 .354 72
1998 Adrian Beltre 214 42 7 18 22 3 6.5% 17.3% .215 .278 .369 76
1983 Jose Oquendo 353 70 1 29 17 8 5.4% 17.0% .213 .26 .244 35

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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Graphs: Baseball, Roto, Beer, brats (OK, no graphs for that...yet), repeat. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris.

38 Responses to “Bryce Harper Up; Leave Him on Wire?”

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  1. roadawg says:

    Nats don’t have anyone who will most likely be more productive than Harp? I just don’t see the point, he doesn’t look ready yet.

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  2. James says:

    Redraft league, drop Ike Davis for him if I need OF depth? Already have Hosmer at 1B, with Dunn and Carlos Pena at 2 util spots.

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    • John Cruz says:

      I’m no fantasy expert, but that doesn’t sound like a good idea. Ike has proven record and will probably regress back to that. Harper is a shot in the dark.

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      • zach says:

        i wouldn’t exactly call ike davis proven.. he hasn’t played a full season yet although he has plkenty of talent and should be solid. but so far hes bee fantasy garbage for me this year. luckily i have adrian gonzalez at first also and i consider him to be much more trustworthy despite the red sox’ stuggles. i picked up harper and dropped a streaming pitcher. the problem for me will be when ellsbury comes off the dl; if harper is hot, who do i bench?

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    • BStu185 says:

      I would.

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    • mcbrown says:

      So! Shiny! Must! Pick! Up!

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  3. John Cruz says:

    Do we think that he stays up now? How much patience would you have for a struggling 19 year old? I like to see Harper, but I just don’t want to see them mess up his development.

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  4. Eric Dykstra says:

    .239/.311/.373 sounds about like he’ll hit in the majors, maybe a little higher avg and obp though, by like 20 points each.

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  5. Obviously he did it before 1980, but Tony Conigliaro was extraordinarily good at age 19.

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  6. radicalhenri says:

    love this post, harper will suck this year in the majors. HOWEVER, if you are in a deep league, you might want to pick him up just because someone might overrate him. If he hits a monster shot in his first couple games, I’m sure there will be some takers.

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  7. longbeachyo says:

    amen henri! I love trading these kind of guys to eager takers.

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  8. jim says:

    playing in 5 leagues, he was drafted in 2, and i dropped danny espinosa for him in 1; he remains unowned in the other 2 currently

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  9. kozilla says:

    I usually have an couple roster spots that I use for streaming so he seems worthy of a pickup. Like radicalhenri is saying my hope is for him to get hot in his first few games and try then flip him for a decent low end piece.

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  10. BlackOps says:

    Only in keeper leagues. Then again, if he’s still available in a keeper league, you probably need a new league.

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    • Matty D says:

      Not necessarily BlackOps, I play in a Keeper but we only have 20 years to dole out and any player who wasn’t drafted is not eligible to be kept. Also, if any player is dropped who was drafted and picked up off waivers (auction style waivers, $100 on the season), is eligible to be kept as well. The owner of Bryce dropped him 3 weeks ago and I grabbed him off FA. Only as a flyer and just see what happens. I have zero expectations and plan to proceed accordingly.

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  11. Blue says:

    He’s certainly worth a pick in NL only leagues…but I don’t think he will be worth the bid required to get him.

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  12. sirvlciv says:

    Have him in my 20 teamer with 25 man rosters, ditto Trout, heh.

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  13. smcfee says:

    Pick him up, auction him off.

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  14. philosofool says:

    I think this depends a little on your standing in your league right now. Suppose you have suffered an ugly injury and are also sitting at the bottom of your league because things haven’t panned out so far. It’s not a bad time for an upside play, especially if you have a hole in OF.

    Harper’s big short fall this season has been neither strike outs nor walks, but power. I really think he could be age 19 Junior with a little more power this season, and if you have a hole in OF, that’s worth rostering.

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  15. jfree says:

    The real point in redraft leagues is that Bryce Harper now has BIG trade value

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  16. Luke says:

    Eno, this was from your chat this afternoon

    “Reimold’s BA will go down, but he has legit power and speed and patience so he’ll stick in the lineup when he’s healthy.”

    Um, in what universe does Reimold have patience? One whole walk this year.

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  17. 1925 Jimmie Foxx says:

    Bring this old dude up already!

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  18. Alex says:

    I think in view o the hype surrounding Harper, you could get a nice player/package back for him if you picked him up and sold him now. I jsut got offered Hamilton for Haper straight in a GP, HR, R, OBP, XBH, SB% roto league. I’m taking it. You might get a bit less for Trout, but the same may work there.

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  19. jon lindberg says:

    @Alex: Why would someone offer you Josh Hamilton for Bryce Harper? In any format?

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    • SKob says:

      You’ve obviously never been in a player value keeper league where you were in last place at the end of April! Good for you!

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  20. jimbo says:

    Seems a great chance to give him some experience. He’s up for two weeks and sees what it is like. You send him down as soon as zimm is back, which is far better than having him demoted due to failure.

    I don’t know how many times a guy can be moved before being out of options. Why not use one of his to replace a dl player? Not like they’re expecting he’ll need them all…

    What will this do to the service time clock?

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  21. Alex says:

    This will get the clock going, obviously. It also will make it etremely likely that he will be a Super Two as the service required to be a Super Two was significantly reduced in the new CBA (There may be something on that in the FanGraphs Library).

    As for his “options”, technically they are option years. A player, when optioned for at least 20 days/year uses up an option year. Players have three of these. However within an option year, players can be moved unlimited times. with the only restriction being that a player optioned to the Minors must remain there for ten days minimum unless he is called upon to replace an injured player.

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  22. USC says:

    philosofool hit the nail on the head.

    I have 3 players on the DL (Gardner, Young, Ellsbury) an OF who has more name changes this year than home runs (Stanton) and Justin Upton whose injuries have been problematic.

    To me, it was a no-brainer to pick him up and hope for the best.

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  23. Joe says:

    Comparing one player to four completely different players from different eras to make case against that player. I’ve seen this before, it’s nonsense. Compare Harper to Harper.

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    • Tim says:

      Well, the previous Harper hit .295/.329/.419 in a thousand and one games, hitting 63 HR and accumulating 14.5 WAR. He did play when he was 19, though he managed only two plate appearances, one of which was a strikeout. He didn’t manage to get regular playing time until he was 28, when he became one of the few major leaguers ever to convert from outfield to catcher.

      I don’t see why this is useful, though I guess Bryce has the latent catching skills to follow the same path.

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  24. Corey says:

    also he’s got a massive hitch in his swing.

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