Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper burst onto the scene last year, winning NL Rookie of the Year as well the hearts of baseball fans everywhere.
It should come as no surprise then, that Harper has vaulted up fantasy baseball draft boards everywhere.
But is his ascension merited?
For a guy with relatively pedestrian numbers for an outfielder, a third round pick is just too much to spend on the 20 year old. Harper is a good young player, but don’t fall into the trap of drafting him too soon.
Harper’s visibility, or fame rather, has turned him into a sports icon. But his performance on the field doesn’t match his celebrity status off of it. The young, energetic, charismatic Harper is certainly a fan favorite, but numbers don’t lie, and Harper’s aren’t among the league’s best outfielders.
Harper batted .270, drove in 59 runs, scored 98 times and hit 22 home runs in his rookie campaign. By comparison, the Baltimore Orioles’ Chris Davis also batted .270, but hit 33 homers and drove in 85 while scoring 75 runs.
Davis strikes out a lot and doesn’t steal any bases, so he may not be quite as good an option as Harper, but my point is that Harper’s numbers stack up relatively evenly with guys who you can get in the later rounds of your draft.
For those of you who argue that Harper will only get better in 2013, I have to say that I disagree. The sophomore slump is a very real thing in the MLB; just ask Jason Heyward. Heyward, whose free-swinging style is very similar to Harper’s, saw his numbers plummet in his second season in the bigs.
I’m predicting that Harper will face the same struggles Heyward did. He likes to swing the bat, and pitchers will quickly figure this out and exploit it. Harper struck out 120 times last year, but expect that number to be around 150 this season.
Harper has talent, there’s no doubt about it. But let someone else take him in the third round while you nab Austin Jackson in the 8th.
You’ll thank me in September.
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