Tuesday, June 01, 2010

On Drafting Bryce Harper

The double-sided enthusiasm around Stephen Strasburg's first start as a Nat combined, 18 hours later, with the Nats drafting uber-prospect Bryce Harper has me enthusiastic and riding a nice little fairweather bandwagon for "my" Nats.

Don't get me wrong: I have been partial to the Nats since they relocated, which itself is based only on my youth in Bethesda and general affinity for the DC area. But I will admit I have had a pretty metzo attitude about them up until this year. And yet I feel no shame in late-adopting a less tepid allegiance. Buying a Strasburg and/or Harper jersey (or jersey T-shirt)? Sure!

Meanwhile, Joe Posnanski weighed in on Harper. I love Joe's writing -- he is among my favorite sportswriters. You should read his post on Harper, because it will give you context for my response, which I almost put in his post's comments, then moved over here. Here's me:
I'm just not quite sure how this Harper analysis from Joe's unnamed scout wouldn't apply to EVERY prospect -- certainly the ones at the top or the "can't-miss" types.

I'm sure you could have even found someone to say before the 2003 NBA Draft "LeBron MIGHT NOT be a once-in-a-lifetime player." (And, indeed, that critic might now be saying, "He may be great, but he still can't win when it counts.")

My point is that there hasn't been a draft in history that hasn't included at least some form of caveat or some contrarian viewpoint, for every single player -- including the "can't-miss" stars. Especially the can't-miss stars.

The logical follow-up question is: So?

So what would the unnamed scout advise the Nationals to do: Not draft Harper because a couple scouts are bearish? OK, I'll take that on its face. So who would those bears like the Nats to take? Can they find a single prospect in this year's draft that wouldn't come with at least one question or bearish analysis attached?

The pace of contrarianism is constantly getting faster, but getting from a scout "Well, he MIGHT not pan out," simply for what seems to be its own sake, doesn't seem bold or insightfully cautionary.

It seems like CYA and the chance to purchase a costless option on "Told you so."
Note: I'm not criticizing Posnanski, per se. I do have an issue with his anonymous scout sources peddling the "You never know if a draft prospect might not work out!" thing. What's the point? (As always with Joe, he provides an absurdly high level of surrounding facts and analysis -- which more than outweigh what might be considered a tenuous premise.)

-- D.S.

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