MLB’s first-year player draft begins with Monday’s first round at 7 p.m. ET. The draft’s key questions begin with the one player that everyone is talking about.
1. How good is Bryce Harper?
The question isn’t whether or not Harper is the top talent in the 2010 draft class; it’s obvious that he is. The 17-year-old hit 29 home runs — most with wood bats — while leading College of Southern Nevada to the NJCAA World Series. What people really want to know is how good Harper will be as a pro. The most consistent comparison given for Harper since he first started to emerge on the national scene has been to Josh Hamilton. The similarities include monstrous bat speed and power from the left side, prodigious arm strength and overwhelming physicality at a young age. Harper’s catching generally receives average grades from scouts, but it’s his bat that’s special. His adviser, Scott Boras, already has said that Harper should move to the outfield, so you can put those Stephen Strasburg-Bryce Harper battery fantasies to bed, Nationals fans. Harper will be the first overall pick barring an amazing upset and will try to withstand the hype that started in eighth grade, spiked in 2009 when he was SI’s cover boy and continued through his season-ending ejection at the NJCAA World Series.
2. Who’s next after Harper?
This is not a particularly deep draft, except among high school pitchers, which tends to be a risky demographic. However, teams that have been bold about prep pitchers have gotten some pretty nice rewards in the last 10 years. Among big league aces, Zack Greinke, Adam Wainwright, Roy Halladay, CC Sabathia and Jon Lester are just some of the frontline arms who were drafted and developed straight out of high school. If Harper weren’t in this draft, The Woodlands (Texas) High right-hander Jameson Taillon would be challenging to be the first prep RHP to go No. 1 overall, and Taillon fits into the consensus top four talents — a group that also includes Miami prep shortstop Manny Machado and Ole Miss left-hander Drew Pomeranz, who threw seven scoreless innings in the Rebels’ 10-5 win over the Red Storm in the opening round of the Charlottesville Regional on Friday.