Greg Morgan: I'll take the over on BA, R, HR, RBI and SB's. My expectations are to see 30-35 HRs, 20+ SBs, and a slash line of .290/.360/.510 or better. His ceiling is higher than that; the question is whether or not it comes this year. In early drafts with savvy players (NFBC format), he's been going mid-third round I'd draft him there without hesitation. Unfortunately, come late March in Vegas, in all likelihood that won't be an option. The latest you'll be able to get him is mid second round, early second round more common, with occasional appearances late in the first. I have no specific limit to how high I'll draft him, but it's more about fitting together the pieces of a puzzle than pure value. It all depends who is on board each round and who I expect to be there in the 2nd or 3rd based on draft flow. There are so many upside OFs available late this year that I'd rather take an infielder or an elite ace early.
Don Drooker: While every projection put forward seems reasonable, from a strictly Fantasy perspective, Harper won't be on my team. Not because the player isn't good, but because he'll be over-valued by both experts and home game team owners. In a NL-only re-draft auction league, he'll probably earn $25-$30 but someone at the table will pay more. In a 15-team mixed snake format, there are at least six (6) OF I'd take first, so he's only a top twenty pick if all the others go early.
Todd Zola: Wow, this is interesting. I'm taking the under on average and steals but would not be surprised if the power is a tad light.
First off, any time one is asked the question will a player be better or worse than last season, you'll be correct 70 percent of the time if you say worse. Granted, I need to do more work on this to see if there is anything tell-tale about the 30 percent, but strictly on probability, I'm taking the under on every player compared to last season.
Next, it is very possible for a player's skills to improve but not have that reflected in their performance (which will happen to Mike Trout this season but that's for another day). The luck-related metric that worries me with Harper is his 23 percent line drive rate. I see this coming down, lowering his batting average and reducing steals, regardless where he sits in the order.
But what really concerns me is his K/BB and this is what I feel will make or break his season. While neither were bad, in fact an argument can be made that both were very good for a then 20-year old, I'm not willing to take the leap of faith both get appreciably better this season. I think there's a decent chance both take a step back before improving down the line, which will negatively impact Harper's average and stolen base opportunities. And if this leads to a slump or two, it will be interesting to see how he reacts.
CS: He slumped all of last July and responded pretty well after that, I'd say.
TZ: Very true - let's see what happens when it occurs while hitting 3rd or 4th for a team under immense pressure and scrutiny after the manner they handled Stephen Strasburg last season.
Gotta love it, two stat guys talking psychology.
CS: He wasn't under pressure last year, in a pennant race as a 19-year-old rookie? And being, ya know, Bryce Harper?
TZ: I just think it's more this season. There actually wasn't much of a race and the Strasburg stuff, not to mention the Mike Trout stuff, deflected some of the being Bryce Harper stuff. The microscope will be on the team from the first pitch until they win the World Series, with anything less a failure.
GM: I certainly don't diminish the significance of psychology, pressure, and their impacts on performance, but I think the notion that there's more or less pressure based on certain lineup slots is a largely a myth. Baseball is a mental game, but when entering the batter's box you think about the opposing pitcher's repertoire, pitch sequence, the game situation, perhaps bunting, hitting a sac fly, any number of things, but not sure why lineup slot would ever enter the hitter's mind at that point in time. It's not that lineup slot doesn't have effects. One might see more fastballs with a burner on first as opposed to Paul Konerko. Hitting in front of Barry Bonds in his prime, J.T. Snow probably saw better pitches to hit. Hitting 8th in the NL, it makes sense that you'll see more pitches out of the zone, but the pressure to perform is always there whether hitting 1st or 9th. A 100 mph fastball is still a 100 mph fastball no matter where you are in the lineup.
Will other factors create more pressure on Bryce Harper? Perhaps, I dunno. However, when I think of Harper, he reminds me of a young Josh Beckett in the World Series. Too young and cocky to even realize that he should be feeling pressure. Obviously I could be wrong as I don't know him personally, just my two cents.
TZ: In the moment, sure.
But I'm talking more about the cumulative impact of post game interviews and press conferences; the spot in the order is associated with importance to the team. You now have the Bryce Harper effect plus the guy expected to carry the team, regardless of the name on the back of the uniform.
Lawr Michaels: Well, I loved Cory's pick at the time. I had Harper penciled (note, not penned) in for around .275-25-80 which are really great numbers. It would be great if he exceeded, but just that baseline for a 20-/21-year-old is pretty good (note if he does drive in 100 before age 22 he is in pretty rare company as a future HOF'er, as that stat bodes pretty well for young hitters).
I refuse to plug into the controversy of good or bad picks over the first three rounds. Generally good players abound every pick and the real crapshoot is whether they stay healthy or the bottom drops off.
Where you win is between picks 8-15 I believe. Just like in an auction, you win with surprise bargains, like Trevor Plouffe and Fernando Rodney.
Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.
Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.