Wed Jun 03, 2009 6:00 pm EDT
Bryce Harper punches his ticket to Cooperstown at age 16
I have no idea if there's a difference in pressure between having every baseball wonk following you around at age 16 and having every sports fan in the country learn your name, but I suppose Bryce Harper will soon be able to tell us.
Following in its grand tradition of predicting can't miss future superstars like Schea Cotton and Tamir Goodman, Sports Illustrated is using the cover of this week's magazine to tout the 16-year-old Las Vegas resident as "the most exciting prodigy since LeBron."
Writes SI's Tom Verducci:
"Still only 16, Harper stands 6'3", weighs 205 pounds, has faster bat speed than Mark McGwire in his prime and runs so fast that he scored on wild pitches six times this season from second base. As a catcher he picks off runners from his knees, and when he pitches, he throws a fastball that has been clocked at 96 mph.
"When James was 16, he was a high school sophomore with an NBA game and a body to match. Harper has been compared to Justin Upton(notes), Alex Rodriguez(notes) and Ken Griffey Jr.(notes), each a freakishly advanced high school player and each the top overall pick of his draft. But Harper, say the baseball men who are paid to make such assessments, has the ability as a sophomore that the aforementioned trio had as seniors."
Whether or not Harper will eventually save SI from the limb it just walked out on remains to be seen, but it should be said that Harper certainly believes he can.
"Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely," says Harper when asked by Verducci about his goals. "Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can't wait."
Under normal circumstances, I'd say it's getting ahead of ourselves to point out that he doesn't mention winning the World Series as a goal or that he'll likely have to play the first several years of his career for a team not named the Yankees before his current "adviser" Scott Boras negotiates the first billion dollar contract in MLB history.
But since we're talking about a kid who's hitting 570-foot home runs and already has a frame that looks like it was constructed by a team of uber-intelligent robots, why not get a little crazy and predict that Harper will finish his career by passing Barry Bonds'(notes) home run mark, Pete Rose's hits mark AND Cy Young's wins total? Of course, that'll only be after he hits .400 in a season, hits safely in 57 straight games and throws eight no-hitters ... in the same year.
(Hey, everyone else is doing it ... why can't I?)