Bryce Harper | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

Video: Bryce Harper fails to run out double-play

As we all already know, Bryce Harper possesses an insane amount of talent.  But over the months rumors have circulated regarding his perceived aloofness and poor makeup.  The 18-year-old phenom has been repeatedly criticized for his refusal to sign autographs; he blew a kiss at the opposing pitcher after taking him deep; and he’s nearly started several brawls.  In my opinion, however, the following video is the worst of them all. I could care less how big a prick he is towards the other team — in fact, I dig his competitiveness.  But for him to treat the game with such disrespect is wrong, and the fact that the Nationals organization doesn’t reprimand him is a joke.  Having said all that, he’s still easily the best prospect in baseball.

Which New Prospects Immediately Ascend to #1?

Gerrit Cole: This is a tougher call than one might expect, as Jameson Taillon is also a power righty in Pittsburgh’s system that arguably had the finest pitch of his draft class too.  Cole’s fastball is bigger and he is more polished than Taillon and probably closer to the Show.

Danny Hultzen: Hultzen is not really competing against anyone here and was the most polished guy in the ’11 class with excellent command and secondary stuff to go with a plus fastball from the left side.

Trevor Bauer: This is another tough one to call because he probably does not have the limitless projection that Archie Bradley possesses.  Nevertheless, he will arrive very quickly and will succeed from the second he shows up.  He has the unshakable poise that will allow him to immediately adapt to the Major League environment.

Dylan Bundy: Manny Machado is awesome and quite clearly the top infield prospect today, but Bundy would have been my first overall selection if I was Pittsburgh.  I personally believe that no other high school pitcher in history has been on the same level as Dylan Bundy.

Bubba Starling: Starling might take a little while to get there, but his tools are without rival in the Royals’ system and quite possibly the Minors today.  He needs time and patience from the organization because he is not remotely close to a finished product.  KC must remember that this is a good thing.

Francisco Lindor: The Tribe dismantled their system to get Ubaldo, so this is a no-brainer.  Nevertheless, Lindor has tremendous upside and tools.  I was not as high on him as many, but I think I am a little slow to accept the fact that the SS landscape is far from what it once was.  The way prospects are evaluated must adapt with the Major League landscape, and I personally have a difficult time assessing premium positions like SS.

George Springer: He has tools to drool over but lacks zone judgment and has his share of mechanical flaws.  I think he will take longer than other guys who were available, but this was far from the typical botched Houston pick.

Taylor Jungmann: Milwaukee made the smart pick here by going with the polished big-conference collegiate superstar.  Jungmann is already close and should arrive quickly.  After blowing the system up over the winter, this was the kind of draft they needed in Milwaukee as they collected two high profile collegiate aces in Jungmann and Jed Bradley.

Matt Barnes: Oh what it must be like to be the Red Sox during a draft like this.  With unlimited funds they were able to take 3 guys I had in the top 20 in Barnes, Blake Swihart, and Jackie Bradley Jr., and Henry Owens who I had immediately outside of it.  Their top guy prior to this week was Will Middlebrooks, and I just don’t see the same kind of upside in him that I do in Barnes.  Barnes certainly needs to improve his secondary stuff as well as command of all of his pitches, but he can work at 95 mph for 70 pitches and is very comfortable throwing in the cold New England air.  Oh, and I see him as a starter.  Duh.

Other teams that totally killed the draft were Washington and Tampa who have the Minor Leagues’ best hitting and pitching prospects respectively.  It should be noted that no one drafted this year would land in front of Bryce Harper or Matt Moore in any ranking of mine.

Video: Bryce Harper’s 480-foot, walk-off bomb

The Connie Mack World Series vs. Area Code Games

On Twitter this morning, Oakland pitcher and former CMWS (2005 and 2006) and Area Code Games (2004) participant, Brett Anderson, asked ESPN’s Keith Law if he’d ever been to Farmington in August for the Connie Mack World Series.  Law said that he had not due to the simultaneous annual scheduling of the CMWS and Area Code Games.  This is an issue for top underclassmen each summer whose club organizations happen to still be alive after Connie Mack state and regional play concludes.  Fortunately for both events only 10 teams can make it to Farmington each year, and only two are there the entire week, so often players find little conflict in terms of attending both events if only for a portion of each.  For instance, in 2009 Farmington’s own Jake McCasland was the scheduled starter in the opening round of the CMWS as well as a participant in the tourney’s homerun derby.  He obviously was obligated and thrilled to participate in the CMWS as long as his club had not been eliminated.

Once, however, they were knocked out, Jake boarded a plane to California to pitch at Area Code.  This is common for players with invitations to Area Code who do not wish to abandon their club and/or miss the annual CMWS festivities.  Additionally, players who elect to play for organizations like the Midland Redskins, South Troy Dodgers, Florida Legends, East Cobb Yankees, Arizona Firebirds, or Strike Zone Cardinals do so understanding that the clubs’ expectations are to play into the middle of August ever single season.  While these clubs are without question among the finest in the country, playing for them can mean less time to spend on the ever-developing national showcase circuit.

Showcases are designed to present recruitable players to recruiters, be it professional scouts or collegiate coaches.  A great deal of what amateur club coaches and financiers as well as prep coaches are trying to accomplish is “helping kids reach the next level.”  It is next to impossible to walk into any indoor facility or read any amateur club’s website “about us” page without hearing something about the “next level” and how their club is second to none with regards to helping kids reach whatever that is.  And those are the good guys.  The bad guys are the people suggesting to kids that playing club baseball is no longer necessary or beneficial.

That is how we arrived at the national showcase circuit, a circuit that Bryce Harper made famous during his amateur ascension.  Players in this circuit have allegiance to no one and have practically no concept of what “team” constitutes.  They immediately hit the road following the end of the school season in pursuit of BP rounds and 60-yard dashes.  The showcase circuit is a joke to fans of baseball because it effectively strips the game of any intrinsic meaning or value in favor of dollars and exposure.

The CMWS is somewhat of a throwback relative to the national showcase circuit in that it actually fields teams of players who have spent a minimum of a couple of months together, and in some cases years to a decade together.  This in many ways is analogous to school ball except for that the talent level tends to be considerably higher.  The thought of a school team succeeding in an event like the CMWS is laughable, but the idea that “team” matters is certainly a reflection of the school baseball concept.  This isn’t to discredit players who outside of school baseball have no means of exposure during the non-spring months other than showcases.  This is common in rural areas, inner cities, and areas like Wyoming and Iowa where club baseball options are limited or nonexistent because the school season takes place during the summer months.  Brandon Nimmo is a product of that sort of environment, and he landed in the first round and now has a chance to really learn what team baseball means within the professional ranks.

The Area Code Games have much more in common with a basic showcase than they do with something like the CMWS.  Teams are assembled in glorified random fashion based loosely on geography.  Yes, the talent level is through the roof.  A great deal of the top NCAA recruits as well as the early portion of any draft will have experience in Area Code, but the same can be said for many events including the CMWS.  The PG All-American game (formerly Aflac) is held the Sunday after Area Codes and the CMWS and has many players from both rostered.  It’s always sort of an end-of-the-summer shindig bringing together the best players from the CMWS and Area Codes into one facility for a handful of high profile innings.  Aside from a select few Midland and 18U Team USA rosters, the PG/Aflac rosters are the best assembled annually.  This year is no different, but once again, there is zero team concept involved and the sample size tends to be so small and meaningless that talent evaluators have less to go by than what they would find at an event like the CMWS where players actually give a shit what the score is.

The difference between events like Area Code and the CMWS as well as the PG/Aflac All-American Game is that the fans in the CMWS root for the players, but they also root for the teams.  At events like Area Codes and other showcase-style recruiting events, the name on the front of any player’s jersey is of little concern to anyone either on the field or in the stands, and the score on the scoreboard is worth far less than each player’s box score line.  Perhaps the perfect example is Strike Zone Cardinal Damion Lovato’s final at-bat in the CMWS, which took place in the 8th inning Monday night against the South Troy Dodgers.   Damion hit a triple after breaking his hamate bone on a foul ball earlier in the game.  Something tells me that any player at Area Codes would have probably sat the at-bat out, but the Cards needed him to contribute, and so he gave his team the best he had.  I, as a baseball fan, greatly prefer the Connie Mack World Series and selfless performances like Lovato’s to any showcase-style event like the Area Code Games.

Top 50 Prospects Update: Parker, Montero, Ackley, Trout and Harper

With a third of the MLB season in the books, and some of the baseball’s best prospects now suiting up for their respective big league squads, it’s time to reflect on the performances of our Top 50 Prospects.  Today we look take an expanded look at 9-1, which includes: Brandon Belt, Jarrod Parker, Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Domonic Brown, Jeremy Hellickson, Dustin Ackley, Mike Trout and, of course, Bryce Harper.

9. Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Triple-A: .337/.470/.525, 7 2B, 4 HR, 21 RBI, 27 BB, 31 K

MLB: .211/.328/.281, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 2 SB, 9 BB, 15 K

8. Jarrod Parker, RHP, Arizona Diamondbacks

Double-A: 5-5, 4.95 ERA, 56.1 IP, 27 BB, 52 K, 1.385 WHIP, 0.2 HR/9

7. Jesus Montero, C, New York Yankees

Triple-A: .292/.338/.421, 10 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 25 RBI, 13 BB, 50 K

6. Eric Hosmer, 1B, Kansas City Royals

Triple-A: .439/.525/.582, 5 2B, 3 HR, 15 RBI, 3 SB, 19 BB, 16 K

MLB: .288/.341/.442, 7 2B, 3B, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 2 SB, 12 BB, 29 K

5. Domonic Brown, OF, Philadelphia Phillies

High-A: .368/.429/.737, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 BB, 3 K

Triple-A: .341/.431/.537, 2 HR, 10 RBI, 7 BB, 9 K

MLB: .228/.311/.443, 5 2B, 4 HR, 11 RBI, 2 SB, 10 BB, 11 K

4. Jeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays

MLB: 7-5, 3.09 ERA, 84.1 IP, 33 BB, 54 K, 1.138 WHIP

3. Dustin Ackley, 2B, Seattle Mariners

Triple-A: .303/.421/.487, 17 2B, 3 3B, 9 HR, 35 RBI, 7 SB, 55 BB, 38 K

*Set to make MLB debut on Friday night against the Phillies

2. Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Double-A: .329/.431/.559, 9 2B, 8 3B, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 23 SB, 33 BB, 44 K

1. Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Class-A: .326/.421/.585, 14 2B, 3B, 14 HR, 45 RBI, 12 SB, 35 BB, 55 K