Bryce Harper ranked No. 3 prospect in baseball
Wednesday, January 26, 2011; 12:13 PM
The Nationals farm system at the moment can be divided between Bryce Harper and everyone else, a fact reiterated by last night's MLB.com countdown of baseball's top 50 prospects. Harper, the 18-year-old outfielder picked first overall in last year's draft, was ranked the No. 3 prospect, the only Nationals player on the list. Harper finished behind only Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Tampa Bay Rays right-handed starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson. The Royals led the majors with six players on the list, all in the top 37. The Nationals were far from alone having one player in the top 50 - the Red Sox, for example, placed only outfielder Jose Iglesias, and he came in at No. 42. Any ranking of prospects, of course, is a largely subjective matter. Last year, Baseball America ranked Nationals catching prospect and on-base machine Derek Norris as the No. 38 prospect in baseball; their full list will come out early in spring training. Most experts regard second baseman Danny Espinosa as the Nationals' second-best prospect behind Harper. Harper, who skipped his senior year of high school in order to enroll in junior college and enter the draft early, received his first professional experience this autumn in the Arizona Fall League, where he became the second-youngest player in the league's history. Playing twice a week as part of the Scottsdale Scorpions' "taxi squad," Harper went 12 for 35 (.343) with three doubles, two triples, one home run, four walks and 11 strikeouts. Harper will participate in the Nationals' major league camp during spring training. Barring a surprise, Harper will likely begin this season with Class A Hagerstown. His inclusion in the fall league was a sign that the Nationals will not hold back Harper as he develops in the minor leagues, so his success level will determine how far he progresses in the Nationals' system. While we're here, one unrelated note: You've probably come across the idea about the Nationals' potentially trading the Indians for Grady Sizemore and/or Fausto Carmona. I haven't mentioned anything about it because, frankly, there's nothing going on there. A fun rumor to kick around, but Nats folks I've spoken with have been uniform in shooting it down.