Scouting Mets' Prospect #13: Brett Harper

The New York Mets drafted Brett Harper, the son of former Minnesota Twins catcher Brian Harper, in the 45th round of the 2000 draft out of Scottsdale Junior College and signed as a draft-and-follow in May of 2001. Harper ranks #13 in our Top 50 Mets' prospects.

Vital Statistics:
Name: Brett Harper
Position: First Base
DOB: July 31, 1981
Height: 6'4"
Weight: 210
Bats: Left
Throws: Right

Brett Harper grew up playing third base for Desert Mountain High School in Scottsdale, Arizona before attending Scottsdale Junior College. His father, Brian Harper, had a 16-year career in the Major Leagues but was known more as the catcher for the Twins for six years and was part of the 1991 World Series Championship team. Growing up as the son of a professional baseball player, Brett was continually influenced by his father. "He has without a doubt been the biggest impact on my life", Harper told NYfansonly.com. "I talk to him after every game. We talk about my at bats and what's going on. He helps me if I'm struggling. I'm trying to get to the big leagues and he's trying to help me", said Harper. When asked about his fondest memory growing up, Harper said: "Being in the middle of the pile jumping around after the Twins won the World Series".

With the obvious baseball genes in his family, Harper was drafted by the Mets out of Scottsdale Junior College and began his professional career with the Kingsport Mets where the Mets decided to move him over to first base. Harper immediately showed his offensive ability, hitting .336 in his rookie year, even earning a promotion to the South Atlantic League to finish out the 2001 campaign. After a small promotion to Brooklyn in 2002, Harper did an admirable job but had neither shown the defensive strides at first base the Mets wanted nor the power production they expected and Harper was sent back down to rookie ball in 2003 to start all over again. "It wasn't disappointing", said Harper. "(It) was very much a numbers game. I knew what was going on and I knew that if I wanted to move up in the organization I was going to have to improve every aspect of my game so I was very clear on what I had to do".

Taking the demotion as a positive thing, Harper responded well, hitting his way up from rookie ball all the way to high-A ball to finish out the 2003 season with the St. Lucie Mets while hitting a combined .310 in four minor league stops. With just one career homerun prior to the 2003 season, Harper hit four homeruns in '03 and showed marked improvement defensively. Harper began the 2004 campaign in the Florida State League with the St. Lucie Mets and immediately hit his way on to the prospect scene. Harper, who finished the year hitting .350 for St. Lucie, had a stretch of reaching base safely in 40 straight games and collecting at least one hit in 36 of those games. He earned Mid-Season Florida State League honors and was named the 2004 Sterling Award Winner as St. Lucie's MVP. He was promoted to AA-Binghamton on July 25th and had 14 RBI in his first 13 games before cooling off towards the end of the year. The Mets rewarded Harper for his meteoric rise through the system and for his his work with a trip to the Arizona Fall League to compete against the top prospects.

Upon receiving his Sterling Award at Shea Stadium in September of 2004, Harper told NYfansonly.com: "It is a great feeling right now. You work hard all off-season for an honor like this, and it is a great honor for me. For me next season begins this season. I just want work hard all winter and then come into Spring Training and try to have another successful season and not have this season be sort of a fluke. I want to prove to the Mets that I am every bit of the hitter I was this year at St. Lucie."

Year

Team

AVG.

AB

Hits

HR

RBI

R

SB

BB

K

OBP

SLG

2004

Binghamton

.247

174

43

7

26

24

0

14

60

.309

.437

2004

St. Lucie

.350

220

77

9

55

32

1

35

53

.440

.564

2003

St. Lucie

.205

44

9

0

4

5

1

5

13

.308

.250

2003

Capital City

.329

79

26

1

9

5

1

4

20

.376

.443

2003

Brooklyn

.299

87

26

1

18

5

1

5

12

.337

.425

2003

Kingsport

.429

35

15

2

10

6

0

3

9

.500

.829

2002

Brooklyn

.279

183

51

1

20

21

2

14

37

.333

.328

2001

Capital City

.182

33

6

0

4

1

0

3

14

-

.212

2001

Kingsport

.336

146

49

0

19

24

3

8

30

-

.411


* Stats as of 10/1/04

Batting and Power. Harper is a very good contact hitter with the ability to hit the ball to all fields. Despite being a big strong guy, Harper did not display his power until the 2004 season when he hit 16 homeruns. He has been a relentless worker in the gym to get stronger and it has paid off for him in a big way. He not only improved his power, but he also improved his patience at the plate. He more than doubled his career total of 42 walks prior to the 2004 season. Harper will have to prove that his power numbers from last season were not a fluke. He boasts a career .302 batting average in the minors and projects to be a solid .290-.300 hitter down the road.

Base Running and Speed. Harper is not about to win any foot races in the foreseeable future. He's a smart base runner that is just not blessed with good speed. He's your typical first baseman.

Defense. As hard as Harper has worked on refining his offensive game, he has worked even harder to improve defensively at first base. He is more of a DH type but does play an adequate first base. He has come a long way defensively since moving over from third base. Harper is work in progress defensively, but is getting better everyday.

Projection. Harper's projection is solely predicated on his success in the power department. He has made enough defensive strides that he can play a serviceable first base in the Majors. Harper has shown that he is a good contact hitter and has enough physical ability to be a powerful force at the plate. If he can duplicate, or even better, his power numbers in 2005, Harper will have the look of a starting first baseman down the road. At minimum, Harper should reach the Majors in some capacity because of his hitting ability. Right now he ranks second only to Ian Bladergroen among the Mets' first base prospects. Harper's success is going to have to force the Mets to make some tough decisions with Craig Brazell.

ETA. 2006. Harper finished the 2004 season in AA-Binghamton and that's where he is most likely to begin in 2005. If he can have another strong first half of the season like he did last year, there's no reason Harper couldn't be promoted to Norfolk later in the year. Harper should be ready for the Majors by 2006 if he continues at his current pace.

First Basemen

2004 Team

Craig Brazell

AAA - Norfolk Tides

Brett Harper

AA - Binghamton Mets

Jay Caligiuri A - St. Lucie Mets
Ian Bladergroen A - Capital City Bombers
Andrew Wilson A - Capital City Bombers
Tyler Davidson A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Jim Burt A - Brooklyn Cyclones
Jabe Bergeron R - Kingsport Mets
Mike Carp R - Gulf Coast Mets


Comments

The Mets have some decent first base prospects, especially at the lower levels. The first base prospect that seems to have the highest ceiling at this point is the Bombers' Ian Bladergroen. But don't count out Brett Harper, the son of a former Major Leaguer, as a legit first base prospect. He has the pedigree and tremendous work ethic to make it all the way to Shea Stadium. And though just early, Mike Carp from the Gulf Coast League Mets has the potential to be a rising star among the Mets' prospects in the coming years. Here's a quick breakdown the Mets' first base prospects:

1) Craig Brazell - Brazell is a good defensive first baseman with excellent power and a good stroke at the plate. His only downfall in his development has been his lack of walks. A contact hitter, Brazell has the potential to be a starting first baseman in the Major Leagues. The question is will the Mets be the team to give him that opportunity.

2) Brett Harper - The son of Major League catcher Brian Harper, Brett is a very good hitter. He hits for power and is a very patient hitter. He hits the ball to all fields and only needs to continue his hitting prowess and work on his defense at first base to become a very good prospect at first base. Brett went to the Arizona Fall League this fall to face better pitcher and work on his defense. He's out to prove that his season in St. Lucie (.350-9-55) was not a fluke.

3) Jay Caligiuri - Caligiuri is more of a project at first base after coming up through the low minors as a third baseman. He can hit for power as his 18 home runs in less than 400 at-bats in the Florida State League (a notorious pitchers' league) this past season indicate. He's a very patient hitter, willing to take a walk. He's going to have to demonstrate more consistent contact at the plate and better defensive skills before garnering more attention as a first base prospect.

4) Ian Bladergroen - The "Blade" was Mr. Everything for the Bombers before a wrist injury prematurely ended his hot hitting for the Bombers this past season. Despite playing in just 72 games for Cap City this season, he still wound up third on the team in RBI with 72. He can hit for power and average. He uses all fields and is the best defensive first baseman for the Mets among the 1B prospects playing in the long-season leagues.

5) Andrew Wilson - Wilson can flat out hit. He has very good gap power and increasing home run power as he matures. The problem is where is he going to play? Wilson was the Bombers' first baseman after Bladegroen was lost for the season with a wrist injury but also played 2B, 3B, OF, and even played one game at catcher. He was tested as a catcher in the Instructional Leagues this past September. He has the look of a really good utility player down the road that can fill in at first base if need be.

6) Tyler Davidson - Davidson is a monster physically, standing 6'4" and a very athletic 240 lbs. He routinely puts on a show at batting practice, crushing balls all over the outfield fence. The problem has been transferring that same success in BP during actual games. He's a very good hitter with awesome power and is an adequate defensive player at first base. At 24 years old, Davidson needs to show he can duplicate his lower level success at the higher levels before he can make that leap into next level of prospects.

7) Jim Burt - The son of former New York Giants nose tackle Jim Burt, Burt is a very strong guy. Not very tall (5'11"), Burt is a workout maniac in the gym. He split time at 1B with Davidson at Brooklyn this season after being selected in the 19th round in the 2004 draft. He's a good defensive first baseman that can hit for power and has excellent speed for a guy his size.

8) Jabe Bergeron - An undrafted rookie free-agent signing, Bergeron is an adequate defensive first baseman with fair range. Like Davidson, Bergeron is a really big kid with very good power. He uses the whole field when he hits and has power to all fields. He demonstrated that power by hitting five home runs in a cup of coffee with the Bombers late in the season.

9) Mike Carp - Carp was drafted in the 9th round of the 2004 draft out of high school and is already drawing comparisons at a young age to David Wright for his approach to the game and at the plate. He's a powerful left-handed batter that uses all fields and has very good patience at the plate, especially for such a young hitter. He has very good power projection as he fills out.

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