Monday, June 7, 2010

I don't care about Bryce Harper

All right, I care about Bryce Harper. It's always exciting to have the first overall pick in the draft, even if it means the Nats had to be absolutely terrible to earn it. But Harper has been the default pick for months, and Mike Rizzo ending the team's coyness about who their pick is and confirming it actually makes it less exciting. After having the first overall pick in last year's draft, there's more than a bit of a "been there, done that" mentality amongst fans. As Nationals Baseball points out, Harper is no Strasburg. As awesome as Harper has seemed in the Area 51 League, he's still just a 17-year-old kid with possible makeup and swing problems who's at least three or four years away from making an impact on the major league level. I'll be surprised if I see anyone other than this guy wearing a Harper t-shirt at Nats Park tomorrow night

I'm more interested in who the team will be taking in rounds 2-∞. The common refrain come draft time is that the draft will be essential to replenishing the Nationals' thin farm system, and this year is no different. The farm system is still pretty thin on actual prospects. The 2005 and 2006 drafts are what they are. The latest word from the Nationals' player development people on Chris Marrero is that his defense at first base is much improved, and they still expect him to develop into a major league power threat. While the 2008 Aaron Crow draft is riding on the shoulders of Danny Espinosa, the 2007 and 2009 drafts look like they might be qualified successes at the very least. But this is still a system that has had trouble developing position players and graduating them to the major league club. Subtract Ryan Zimmerman, who was ready for the show on draft day, and Ian Desmond is the only position player drafted by the Expos/Nationals who has developed into a regular contributor to the team in DC. (Let's wait and see who's in right field at the end of the season before we add Roger Bernadina to the list.) Adding Harper should go a long way towards rectifying this, but the team needs to find talented position players after the first round and successfully develop them, too. 

The team insists that the player development process has changed for the better under Rizzo, and I believe them, but the clearest proof will be in the results.

I'll be tuning into the live stream tomorrow for the start of the second round, but forgive me if I choose to watch something else tonight other than the first round of the draft. I just don't care about Bryce Harper.