Bryce Harper doesn’t measure his baseball success by how far he can pound a ball.
But he could.
Using a metal wand the 6-foot-3, 205-pound left-hand-hitting catcher batted .590 with 11 homers – one that traveled 575 feet – drove in 67 RBI and stole 36 bases in 38 games as a freshman at Las Vegas High School.
As a sophomore, Harper hit a 502-foot shot at Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field in last year’s International Power Showcase High School Home Run Derby.
In the 7th annual Aflac All-American High School Baseball Classic on Sunday (Aug. 16) at San Diego’s Petco Park, to be televised by Fox Sports Net at 5 p.m. (PDT), Harper, along with 6-foot, 205-pound Kris Bryant of Las Vegas' Bonanza High School, should put on a long ball show in a major league park where home runs are scarce.
“I don’t think any hitter goes to the plate thinking about hitting a home run,” Harper said.
If anyone could, Harper, 16, might be the guy.
“I’ve never seen someone that young with as much strength and power as Harper has,” said a National League scout to the San Diego Union-Tribune. “He has tremendous impact off the bat. For as young as he is he can really hit the high ball.”
Harper has averaged .600 in his high school career. Although he has two seasons of eligibility remaining as a prep player, Harper, who carries a 3.8 grade point average and will be probably the top draft pick in 2010, has elected to forgo his junior and senior years of high school to enroll in Community College of Southern Nevada in North Las Vegas, hoping to earn his GED in October when he will turn 17.
The minimum age for major league draft eligibility is 16, upon completion of high school. Harper will have to wait at least a year after he enrolls at CSN (where they use wooden bats) in order to be eligible for the draft. However, he would need to spend two years at the community college to earn his Associated Arts degree in order to be eligible for a four-year college scholarship.
Most scouts don’t believe he will wait that long.
“He’s a 3-tooler for sure,” said one American League scout. “He’s doing something that is unprecedented and I think it’ll pay off for him.”
His family supports Bryce in his controversial decision to graduate early, which was illuminated when he was featured on the cover of the June 8 issue of Sports Illustrated as “The Chosen One.”
“I know when people looked at that they think our whole goal is about money,” said Bryce’s father, Ron Harper. “That’s not surprising since there are always going to be critics. People are going to see what they want to see and say what they want to say.”
The Harpers don’t care what outsiders think.
“How we view it is this is something that prepares him for life, playing the game of baseball,” Ron Harper said. “People are going to question your parenting. That’s not a big deal in our opinion. He’s not leaving school to go to work. He’s still going on to college to get his education.”
Harper, who most scouts see as a catcher, is willing and able to play most positions on the diamond.
“This guy really can do it all, including throwing 90-plus from the mound,” said one National League scout. “But I really don’t believe that his future is as a catcher. He has a really compact swing, drives the ball to all fields.”
Harper’s stats would support that. He hit .626 with 14 home runs, 55 RBI and 36 stolen bases for the Las Vegas High Wildcats as a sophomore. He’s also proven his skills as a third baseman, shortstop and outfielder.
“It doesn’t matter to me what position I play,” Harper said. “I just want to be an everyday player.”