Like Roy Hobbs straight out of a scene from The Natural, 16 year old Bryce Harper has burst onto the scene. Certainly those scouts that have followed this kids’ development over the past few years are hardly shocked at the rate at which he continues to dazzle everyone who sees him grace the diamonds in his home state of Nevada, but for those of you unaware of the burgeoning legend, he was recent a cover boy on Sports Illustrated, here are some of the highlights.
1- The kid throws a fastball that has been clocked as high as 96 mph. That’s faster than most of the fastballs from Tim Lincecum (his average fastball is 92.4 mph this season.). Don’t worry though, he doesn’t pitch most of the time, he plays catcher.
2- He once reportedly hit a home run 571 feet. Yes, 571 feet. The longest major league home runs that has officially been verified to my knowledge was a 565 foot bomb hit by Mickey Mantle. Oh yeah, Bryce was 15 years old when he that bomb. Fifteen. He also has the longest home run in Tropicana Field history, you know the park where the Rays play their home games. His blast there was a mere 502 feet, though that was only 502 feet because it smacked into the back wall of the stadium. During the home run derby in which he slugged that Ruthian blast he hit six consecutive home runs that traveled an average distance of 469 feet. Must have been the aluminum bat huh?
3- At 16, he already stands 6’3″ and weighs 205 pounds. And don’t even think of steroids, the kid has never touched the stuff and has no need for it.
4- He played for USA Baseball’s under 16 team at the Pan Am Championships in Mexico facing the best players in the world that are his age. All he did in that tournament was hit .571 with four home runs and six stolen bases in eight games to earn tournament MVP honors.
5- Bryce Harper has decided to skip his junior and senior years of high school and take the GED which he will likely pass with flying colors given his 3.5 GPA. Why? So that he can enter junior college in August of this year, and then become eligible for the major league draft in 2010 in which, conceivably, he could become the number one overall pick in the country.
Is he ready for all of this? We can sit here and debate all day whether or not he can handle the pressure, after all he isn’t even old enough to watch an R-rate movie, to vote, or for that matter he is just barely able to drive a motor vehicle. But in this day and age of 15 year old tennis stars, 14 year old Olympians, and tennie boppers in the entertainment world who aren’t even old enough to watch a PG-13 flick, it’s really a bit of a surprise that it has taken this long for someone to be so good in baseball as to push us all to consider just how young is too young (teams routinely sign foreign players at 16 years of age anyway). As for his skill and the change of him a top-5 pick in the 2010 draft, here is one what National League scouting director had to say about Harper.
“I scouted A-Rod, Chipper Jones, Manny [Ramirez], all those guys in high school. God was very, very good to this kid. He’s stronger than they all were in high school. Never mind next year. If he’d been in the draft this year, he would have gone very, very high.”
Oh, and it appears that Harper will be represented by Scott Boras who almost certainly will look to make the argument that Harper is the greatest athlete since modern man crawled out of the Fertile Crescent in Africa some 100,000 years ago.
It will likely end up being a wild ride for this kid. I can only wish him the best and hope that he turns out to be more Ken Griffey Jr. than Todd Van Poppel.
By Ray Flowers