Bryce Harper seems like an unprecedented prospect. But, I don’t know, Ted Williams was probably pretty phenomenal coming out of amateur ball too. Three years later, The Kid arrived in Boston, fully baked, and he didn’t stop raking for another 20 years.
But that’s expecting a bit much. So let’s look to more recent comparisons, and a larger sample size. Here are the 30 hitters who, like Harper, were drafted No. 1 overall.
As you’ll see, a position player drafted No. 1 is more likely to become a star/Hall of Famer than he is a bust by a ratio of 4:3. And if you cut it off at the past 25 years, that ratio improves to 6:1. Pretty, pretty good.
The most likely outcome, however, is that Harper will become a solid player/All-Star. A B.J. Surhoff-type. And there’s no shame in that. With a record-setting $9.9 million contract, though, I wonder if that would be enough. Probably not. Time will tell.
Matt Bush (2004) — Converted pitcher hasn’t progressed past A ball.
Shawn Abner (1984) — Never hit at the big-league level.
Al Chambers (1979) — Only had 120 big-league at-bats.
Danny Goodwin (1975, 1971) — Never played a full season.
Dave Roberts (1972) — Had one decent year.
Steve Chilcott (1966) — Never made it to the bigs. Mr. October went No. 2.
SOLID PLAYERS/ALL-STARS (15)
Justin Upton (2005) — An All-Star at 21.
Delmon Young (2003) — Currently batting .316. Brother of Dmitri.
Pat Burrell (1998) — 277 career home runs.
Darin Erstad (1995) — Two All-Stars, three Gold Gloves.
Phil Nevin (1992) — Had a few big years with San Diego.
Jeff King (1986) — Four seasons of 90-plus RBI.
B.J. Surhoff (1985) — One of my all-time faves.
Shawon Dunston (1982) — The Shawon-o-Meter!
Bob Horner (1978) — Big bopper for most of the ’80s.
Bill Almon (1974) — Borderline bust. Had a couple of solid seasons.
Mike Ivie (1970) — Another borderline bust. Had some decent years.
Jeff Burroughs (1969) — 1974 MVP.
Tim Foli (1968) — 16-year career.
Ron Blomberg (1967) — Could hit alright. Didn’t last long.
Rick Monday (1965) — 241 career home runs.
STARS/HALL OF FAMERS (eight)
Joe Mauer (2001) — Best catcher in baseball.
Adrian Gonzalez (2000) — One of baseball’s top hitters.
Josh Hamilton (1999) — Three-time All-Star. Having a monster season.
Alex Rodriguez (1993) — 604 career home runs.
Chipper Jones (1990) — One of the best of the past 20 years.
Ken Griffey Jr. (1987) — Legend.
Darryl Strawberry (1980) — One of the best from ’83-’91. Also, cocaine.
Harold Baines (1977) — 2,866 hits, six All-Star appearances.
TOO EARLY (one)
Tim Beckham (2008) — Hasn’t hit much in the minors.