A recent Baseball Prospectus article had some disparaging opinions regarding the makeup of 17-year-old phenom Bryce Harper. Kevin Goldstein wrote the article, "Future Shock: Bryce Harper" (April 22, 2010) on Harper as a player:
"One scout called him among the worst amateur players he's ever seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents. He's just a bad, bad guy," said one front-office official. "He's basically the anti-Joe Mauer."
College of Southern Nevada coach Tim Chambers is fielding a lot of calls about the article and had this to say about Harper while coaching him in 50 or so games over the last six months:
"Bryce is a good all around kid. He has a little swagger, absolutely. We got a pretty good team. He has 21 homers (which was a school record that stood since 2001).
"He plays the game hard with his chin up. You turn on the television and I am pretty sure you would see baseball players with a little bit of swagger too. He has confidence in his game, but he does not brag. He cheers on his teammates. I wish that writer could see him play ten games in a row before he talks about his makeup."
Harper drives a '91 Toyota. He is not cruising up in a limousine or being plopped down on the field via helicopter. Coach Chambers told me Harper was in the office earlier reading a Willie Mays book.
Sometimes it's hard to understand the motivation for a writer to rip on a player he doesn't see every day or hasn't talked to or interviewed. Is it for press? To get more clicks to a website? Reduce a draftee's stock in the eyes of other teams so that maybe one team shies away from him in June?
Tim has told me before how other teams try to goad Harper into taunts and to lose his temper. It happened once when fans reacted to Harper throwing to first after a single to try to back pick a runner. After the "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd, Harper bowed to the crowd and got ejected.
That was the first and last time in 50 games he has been disciplined on the field, despite a lot of fans and opponents attempting to get under his skin. It comes with the territory when you are a 17-year-old baseball phenom who has been called the "LeBron James of baseball."
I also asked Chambers about Harper playing in the outfield once he begins his professional career because catching is tough to learn quickly at the big league level.
"He is close to being ready to play outfield at the professional level, especially with the bat."
Chambers says he could envision a team moving Bryce to the outfield early on in his career if he is hitting so they can get him at bats.
"Yes, there is a learning curve as a catcher. Working with pitchers takes a while to master and you wouldn't want his offense to suffer or get him sidetracked. He loves to catch, but he would be going into his senior year in high school this summer if he hadn't jumped to college ball," Chambers said.
Harper is still a young player and it will take some time for him to get to the level needed to be successful catching in the big leagues.