Bryce Harper: Does His Demotion Mean He Should Be Ignored on Draft Day?

Eric StashinSenior Writer IMarch 19, 2012

VIERA, FL - FEBRUARY 28:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals poses during photo day at Space Coast Stadium on February 28, 2012 in Viera, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

While fantasy owners everywhere hoped that manager Davey Johnson would get his way and Bryce Harper would break camp with the team, it just was not meant to be.  According to Mark Zuckerman of Nats Insider (click here for the post):

“Though he impressed and occasionally dazzled with his athletic ability, hustle and mature attitude over the last month, in the end Harper wasn’t deemed ready for prime time, so the Nationals today optioned their top prospect to Class AAA Syracuse.”

The move shouldn’t come as a major surprise.  However, with Rick Ankiel and Roger Bernadina set to open the year sharing time in center field, is it possible that this is simply a service time decision?  Could the Nationals be looking to keep Harper away from the arbitration for an extra year?

It wouldn’t be the first time a team made a decision based on their wallet and not solely on talent (though, Harper had been struggling at the plate in recent days).  All the Nationals have to do is keep Harper in the minors until the end of April and he won’t become a free agent until 2018.  I wouldn’t call it a given that Harper is playing in Washington come May, but I also wouldn’t rule out the possibility either.

With that in mind, fantasy owners now have to ask themselves if it is still worth drafting Harper and stashing him on your bench until he’s ready to play.

Obviously, in any type of keeper league the answer is simple.  He is arguably the premier prospect in the game and is definitely the best hitting prospect.  The top pick in the 2010 draft has gotten significant praise and rightfully so.  In 387 AB between Single & Double-A in ’11 he hit .297 with 17 HR and 26 SB.  Clearly, in this type of format he’s a must-own (and it would be surprising if he was even available).

In yearly formats things are a little bit different.  There is no guarantee that he is going to get an opportunity to play until late in the year, so drafting him early on could prove to be a waste of a draft pick.  At the same time, he could prove to be the steal of the draft if he is called up before the All-Star Break.

According to Mock Draft Central, he has an ADP of 227.95, or basically being selected in the 19th round.  I actually think that the timing is about right and, if it were me, I would not have a problem making the selection.  I wouldn’t draft him much earlier than that, because of what you would have to leave on the table to get him, but in the 18th round or later it seems like a good decision.

Just consider that he is going after players such as:

  • Juan Pierre (a bench player in Philadelphia)
  • Yoenis Cespedes (upside is lower and could easily spend time in minors)
  • Mike Trout (significantly more players blocking his playing time)
  • Lorenzo Cain (more upside)

You could also look at veterans with limited upside going before him, like Carlos Quentin or Vernon Wells.  Who would you rather own?

The upside of Harper is too enticing, especially when you can pair him with a player like Lucas Duda, Delmon Young, J.D. Martinez, Jason Kubel, Dayan Viciedo or Josh Reddick, all of whom are being selected at least a round later and provide as much, if not more, upside than the outfielders you would be passing up to select Harper.

Obviously there is plenty of risk, but the reward is too great to ignore.  There is more than enough depth in the outfield that you can easily get a player later on in the draft.  So if Harper turns out to be banished to the minors until September you won’t be completely stranded.  However, if he does get the call in May or June, he could easily out produce his draft spot and help lead your team to victory.

What are your thoughts of Harper?  Would you still consider drafting him?  If so, when in the draft would you make the selection?

Make sure to check out all of our 2012 rankings: