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No worries about Harper’s attitude

Apr 29, 2010, 2:00 PM EST

Despite increased chatter about problems with Bryce Harper's character, the Nationals have no concerns about the top prospect's makeup.

A high-ranking club official said a recent report slamming the 17-year-old catcher for having attitude issues was "way overblown" and the Nats have no qualms about selecting him first overall in the June draft based on personality traits.

"Is he confident? Yeah," the team official said. "Is he cocky? Yeah. Does he think he's the best player on the field at all times? Yeah. But find me a great player who doesn't think that about himself."

The Nationals have not settled on Harper, a freshman at the College of Southern Nevada who has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and been hyped as the "LeBron James of baseball," as their choice yet but are leaning toward selecting him with the top pick. In 47 games so far, Harper is batting .410 with 21 homers, 59 RBI and a 1.414 OPS.

The critical Baseball Prospectus report on Harper's character, published last week, said despite the catcher's overwhelming physical ability, it's difficult to find a talent evaluator who "doesn't genuinely dislike the kid." One scout was quoted in the report calling Harper "among the worst amateur players he's even seen from aRead more »

  1. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    He sounds a bit like a certain QB from Notre Dame…but I would take him anyway.

  2. A.W. - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    Nothing that a little bit of minor league/big league hazing and 2-3 years of maturity can't fix…or the guy is just an a-hole and we'll have to deal with it.

  3. Tcostant - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:17 PM

    The fact that is putting up those stats with a wooden bat while playing vs. older players make him a great pick. Plus he plays catcher a plus position.Draft him – sign him – see ya in D.C. catching Strasburg on Opening Day 2013!I'm okay waiting for him to develop in the minors, most draft picks are not major league ready.

  4. Pete - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:32 PM

    Gary Sheffield was a huge A-Hole but was a pretty good player. Ditto Barry Bonds, Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth. If his production is good enough it won't matter. If it's not, he'll become a very expensive Elijah Dukes.

  5. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:41 PM

    2013? I know generally you wouldn't think an 18 year old would be ready for the majors, but I bet he is up by middle of 2011.

  6. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:44 PM

    This is the first time I have ever seen Babe Ruth referred to as a "huge H-Hole."You want to explain this Pete?

  7. Doc - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:49 PM

    According to the 'draft by personality variables' we would never have Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds, and all the other personality challenged ball players that have come along the pike. Sure it'd be nice to have a team of Lou Gehrigs and Stan Musials, but we're paying them to play baseball first. Having said that it wouldn't hurt to know the personalities that we're drafting. Obviously, there are some players whose negative personality features just don't fit into team dynamics, and whose skills don't supercede their negative personality features. The Babe was cocksure, but from what I've read his team-mates were there for him,and vice-versa.

  8. mwyche - Apr 29, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    If u were an opposing team wouldn't u want to spit out lies about the kid so maybe the nats don't take him and he falls to u…makes a lot of sense to me…btw our minor league affiliates mus b xtatic first the attendance boost from stras. Now we should have Harper on the way.

  9. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:05 PM

    I still want to hear from Pete. I've studied Ruth my entire life and I've never heard anything like this "A-Hole" charge.Doc then grouped Ruth and Bonds, and mentions we wouldn't draft Ruth using today's personality variables. I don't think this stands up either.Who is the charismatic, larger-than-life, practical-joking Nats player, who has this incredible ability to make professional baseball players feel like they're better players just by being around him? Unquestionably Nyjer Morgan. And that's the same "personality variables" Ruth brought to the Yankees.Comparing Ruth and Bonds along lines of personality variables is like comparing Uncle Sam with Son of Sam.

  10. NatinBeantown - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:17 PM

    I've been wondering about Rizzo & co's thoughts on this since the BP piece came out. My bigger question is less about Harper's attitude, and more about his leverage. SS was not going back to the following year's draft, but Harper has no such limitation–next year he'd be an 18-yr-old with 2 years of wood bat experience at the college level, and an even more attractive draftee. How big of an issue is his "signability"?

  11. Carl in 309 - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:19 PM

    Leaving Babe Ruth out of this, if the Nats are working on settling on good clubhouse dynamics (and given the apparent modesty of one Mr. Strasburg) while shedding some problem characters from the storied Bowden era, I am uncomfortable hearing about young Bryce Harper's personality. We don't need the next Barry Bonds if the price is divisiveness and a sense of entitlement (D.C. has way too many characters already locally with "entitled" as their middle name!).Notwithstanding that gut reaction, if Rizzo's folks think he's coachable and able to work within the Kasten/Rizzo/Riggleman regime, I would have no reason to second guess that perspective.I'd rather hear about what are the realistic quality alternatives to this kid, should he not be our choice. Mark?

  12. SpringfieldFan - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    Mark, do you think these issues raise any signability concerns? Yeah, his attitude probably will improve as he grows up, but in the nearer term, could it stop the team from reaching a mutually acceptable deal with him?

  13. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:22 PM

    The kid is 17- have you met many mature 17 yr olds? Also, not to keep the Lebron comparisons going, but I recall him showboating/being more than a little full of himself when he was coming out of high school. Just sayin'…

  14. Tcostant - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:25 PM

    To Anonymous @10:32 AM: No way you would see him in 2011 – none. I said Opening Day 2013, think maybe a Sept call up or early in 2012 if all goes well. But even that is very fast. Even top propoect need to spend at least 1 1/2 in the minor; most at least 3 years.You need to get a timetable out of your head – bring plays up when they are ready.

  15. Matt - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:28 PM

    I'm not Pete, but as far as Ruth goes… drunkard, serial cheater. Maybe not a first class [expletive], but not exactly first class either.

  16. Steve M. - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:43 PM

    NatinBeantown – Harper has huge leverage as he can just say NO and stay in school and be drafted again. That is the biggest factor in my opinion along with PED testing this kid then his baseball skills and personality assessment. Also, don't worry how he will interview on camera because with Bora$$ advising him, this kid will look and sound like the class valeDICKtorian!

  17. Wally - Apr 29, 2010 at 3:46 PM

    I think that Harper is clearly the choice at #1, barring some unforeseen performance or injury issue arising between now and the draft. But here is the thing. While most postings seem to concur, a lot of people seem to accept BP's categorization of him as an A-hole and say draft the talent anyway (which, if that was the case, I would agree with). But is it the case? He is 17 years old. Anyone know a son/daughter/niece/nephew or friend's kid who, at 17, felt like they knew everything better than anyone else and that the world was here to serve them? Was anyone that way themselves at 17? Did all of those people remain that way forever, and no one showed any maturity as they grew up and developed experiences?I understand that there is a lot of money involved and that this is a very important decision, but, speaking strictly from a baseball perspective, I think it unwise to assume that the personality of a 17 yr old remains the same through age 26ish (the expected years of team control for Harper). Glad to see that the Nats don't appear to be making that mistake.

  18. MM - Apr 29, 2010 at 4:17 PM

    Steve M. said…PED testing this kidwhat are you talking about?

  19. Jeff Wang - Apr 29, 2010 at 4:33 PM

    Babe Ruth was a very notorious womanizer. Find me a women who doesn't think that kind of behavior isn't a perfect example of "a-hole"ness.

  20. Slidell - Apr 29, 2010 at 5:07 PM

    Someone like Zimm ought to be able to sort him out. If drafted, perhaps the Nats would assign a "keeper" to him, a mentor so to speak, who would work on the rough edges. And, to keep things in perspective, he is only 17.

  21. Anonymous - Apr 29, 2010 at 5:19 PM

    Yeah, I suspect my dad wanted to belt me more than once when I was 17. Frankly, he probably should have…Besides, I can't imagine the heathen I would've become with all the attention Harper's gotten. Don't know much about the Babe, but never heard anyone complement his character.

  22. Eric - Apr 29, 2010 at 5:20 PM

    No doubt at this point they take him. I'm betting his bat will be MLB ready long before '13, but not his skills behind the plate. I expect to see him move to RF to take advantage of his athleticism and plus arm and see him in the bigs in a A-Rod-esque 18 months.

  23. Eric - Apr 29, 2010 at 6:00 PM

    Storen promoted to AAA today, I'll bet dollars to donuts that Strasburg follows him after Sunday's start.

  24. 6thandD - Apr 29, 2010 at 6:33 PM

    Dunn and Zimmerman can kick his ass when he gets here. Let's just get him here.

  25. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 29, 2010 at 7:33 PM

    NatinBeantown: Signability might be more of an issue with Harper than it was with Strasburg, because he can return to college for another year. But as someone with the Nats pointed out to me, Harper/Boras have to be careful not to use that as too much leverage, because with a new CBA expected in 2011, draft rules and signing bonus rules could change dramatically. They could very well institute a cap on rookie contracts, so Harper could lose money if he goes back into the draft next year.Carl in 309: The other name that comes up as a possible No. 1 pick is Jameson Taillon, a high school right-hander from Texas. As is always the case with high school pitchers: buyer beware.

  26. BerkeleyHunt - Apr 29, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    Another JD Drew coming. Players with great skills, incredible stats, but a bad attitude never reach their potential. Big difference with Strasburg was he had already been through some adversity with his weight and all the people who questioned him. You watch how guys like Stammen and Desmond bounce back from bad games, or how Morgan and Dunn contribute to the clubhouse, this guy has none of that character – wouldn't want to be a Gatorade jug in the Suns dugout if he pulls consecutive 0 for 4s in Hargerstown.Harper is a baby who will need some a-s whoopings in the minors. Team needs to lose the Bowden legacy of discounting psychology, and draft someone who's not a self-entitled headcase.

  27. wpcorbett - Apr 29, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    The fact that the Nats front office is defending him is a pretty good indication that they're going to take him, whatever he is.

  28. BerkeleyHunt - Apr 29, 2010 at 9:00 PM

    Mark, any news on where the Nats stand with Deck McGuire? I think the Virginia native would be a much better pick for the Nats than the Vegas brat.

  29. waddu eye no - Apr 29, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    i don't care if he's another babe ruth. or barry bonds (except without the steroids). it's another ben rothlisberger/darryl strawberry/tiger woods that i'd worry about.sign him, even if only for trade value. pudge can't last forever, and flores? hasn't lasted YET. though i wish him the best. the nats may be defending him, but also their willingness to pick him.

  30. BerkeleyHunt - Apr 29, 2010 at 10:39 PM

    I'm sure Boras will make sure some stories get out there countering the report of bad behavior. The Byron Kerr piece on masnsports could be the result of such an effort.Harper brings one good thing – publicity and attention for the team like Strasburg is doing now. But the Lerners could also spend the money on upgrading the team's woeful PR and marketing operation.

  31. Carl in 309 - Apr 29, 2010 at 11:24 PM

    Resurfacing (from an airport lobby)–thanks Mark for your further thoughts on the Nats front office regarding Mr. Harper and potential draft alternatives.While I think there are lots of "know it all teenagers" who still aren't a-holes, I'm generally convinced that this is the guy we should go for. Since I'm generally not excited about high school draftees (of any kind, much less pitchers), I can't see a more attractive alternative to Bryce at this stage.

  32. Anonymous - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:06 AM

    Um…anyone who doesn't want "the next Barry Bonds" is insane, since that would mean he'd be the best player of his generation/all time (on-field contributions).

  33. David - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:09 AM

    If Harper is as good as Babe Ruth I don't care if he is bipolar with turrets syndrome :).

  34. Drew8 - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:12 AM

    Mark:Thanks for the prompt and interesting post on how the Nats see the Harper hand-wringing.Any word on where the Nats want him to play? His bat would be a big bonus at catcher, as with Mauer and Wieters. But I'd love to see him in right field, eventually giving the Nats a monster 1-6 of Morgan-Desmond-Zim-Dunn-Willingham-Harper.Do the Nats worry that the wear and tear behind the plate could take years of production off Harper's career? It might well have kept Ted Simmons and Joe Torre from reaching HOF numbers.Then again, if Harper plans to bolt for the Bronx in six years, the wear and tear won't matter to the Nats.What's the word on his position?

  35. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:39 AM

    Drew8: I don't think the Nats are worried so much about his position at this point. You draft a 17-year-old because of his hitting ability and overall athleticism. Then you figure out what position he'll play. I do know many people think Harper will be best-served in the end as a corner outfielder or perhaps a first baseman. But there's plenty of time for that to all sort itself out. People forget that Albert Pujols came up as an outfielder and third baseman before finally settling in at first base. If he can hit, they'll find a spot for him in the field.

  36. JMW4th - Apr 30, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    If Harper is the best player in the country. Draft him. no excuses.quit listening to Pittsburgh's scouts.all this talk about, and not a single person in the media, to my knowledge, has even bothered to try and say that there is a better player than Harper in the draft. and that is the ONLY reason to draft someone else with the #1 OVERALL PICK. If you have the VERY FIRST PICK IN THE ENTIRE DRAFT, you choose the absolute best player, no matter what.Draft Bryce. period.

  37. Anonymous - Apr 30, 2010 at 1:20 AM

    Mark, is there any news on the progress of Chien-Ming Wang?

  38. dcusimano123 - Apr 30, 2010 at 2:43 AM

    I am probably the only person on this board who saw him play live – I saw him play in the second game of a doubleheader in Vegas on March 19th. He was suspended for the first game for mouthing off to the other team, so there was that. CSN is a VERY good juco program, with a bunch of good players. Harper is significantly better than everybody on that team. The best way to describe it is the ball sounds different coming off his bat. If he's drafted and signed this year, I would be surprised if he wasn't in the majors before he turns 19 in 2011. He is a once-in-a-generation talent. Think Alex Rodriguez – who also was the #1, #1 pick) and was playing in the majors within a year. Harper's that good.

  39. Uncle Atom - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:09 PM

    Draft him, a-hole or not. The Nats should take the best available draftee. Does he have some leverage by threatening to stay in school another year for another draft? Sure. But he left high school early to find better competition. His numbers suggest he'll soon be bored with the current level of competition. He'll be antsy to sign and move through the system. Plus, he also needs to think about the risks if he doesn't sign. He might get hurt before getting a big financial windfall, then all the scouts will disappear and he'll be asking people if they want fries with their burger.

  40. Les in NC - Apr 30, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    If anyone is interested, I have been following his season this year at CSN and have been compiling his stats for each game. Here is a link to my thread at that includes a spreadsheet and screenshots of his performance.

  41. Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 - Apr 30, 2010 at 1:02 PM

    Who is "Deck McGuire?" Since I have to ask that question (I read a lot blogs), the answer may well be "nobody" as compared to Harper. I believe the negative story on Harper was sourced from scouts trying to drive him down in the draft so their teams would have a shot at him.

  42. Mark Zuckerman - Apr 30, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Anon: As I wrote the other day, Wang has yet to face live hitters in Viera. He'll have to start doing that first before he can go on a rehab assignment. Though according to Mike Rizzo, Wang said his arm feels as good as it has since his surgery last year.

  43. Anonymous - Apr 30, 2010 at 5:22 PM

    for those interested in seeing more on Jameson Taillon, you can find video of him on the mlb site.

  44. Anonymous - Apr 30, 2010 at 6:29 PM

    Heh, heh…let the kid see a decent curveball – that will take care of a lot of issues.

  45. Sec 204 Row H Seat 7 - Apr 30, 2010 at 6:36 PM

    @2:29 pm Anonymous You mean to say that no pitcher in Harper's college league has a "good" curveball? I don't think so.

  46. Anonymous - Apr 30, 2010 at 9:37 PM

    I do worry about the attitude and the leverage issue. An alternate strategy might be picking the next-best-available (and I understand it is a significant drop-off) and using the extra money that would go to Harper for getting other picks significantly above slot. There's got to be good talent out there that drops because of "signability" but whose signability issues are a fraction of Harpers. I might rather have three or four very good prospects in the first few rounds rather than putting all the eggs in the Harper basket and going for signability the rest of the way.

  47. Anonymous - Jun 9, 2010 at 10:07 PM

    Watch Bryce in the east west high school all star game get fanned 3 at bats with no hits! You think there are any good curve balls in the majors! He will find out. He will have to perform and do it at a much different level than he has ever. My son played with him on the Utah Marshalls and he did say he was the best batting practice hitter he has ever seen. I doubt they will be serving them up like that in MLB! Anyway he is where he wants to be now and its up to him.





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