Bryce Harper could well be playing for the Washington Nationals by the end of the 2012 season. He would join Stephen Strasburg atop the Nats' organizational depth chart, give the team a real chance to consider playoff contention in 2013 and possibly detonate the biggest media bomb in the history of baseball prospects.
One of the great distinguishing features of baseball vis-a-vis its competitors for America's sporting attention is that fans of this great game can measure their organization's future in more concrete terms than can football or basketball fans. Sure, if your team is headed for the top pick in the NFL or NBA draft the coming year, you will get an immediate-impact, elite talent. As you play out the string, though, that guy is always a silhouette with a question mark for a face.
In baseball, conversely, a bad team's fan base can point to their best prospect (or two or three) and see how that guy will fit into their team sometime in the next year (or two or three). For that reason, really exciting young players often get a ton of hype. Harper and Strasburg are just two examples of the sort of frenzy a player with boundless potential can elicit as they close in on the big leagues. Here are the 15 most-hyped prospects ever.