The Trade Counsel: The Trade Value Of Bryce Harper

by Simon Jones

Tonight will mark the Major League debut of the Nats’ uber-prospect Bryce Harper. Harper has been the subject of more hype than pretty much any player of recent generations. You know all about Harper by now. He was in The top 3 of every pre-season prospect list that I saw, and we’re all aware of his supreme talent. In long term keeper leagues, he’ll have been snapped up way back, but in single-season leagues the debate about when he was likely to get called up determined his draft value (or rather lack of it). Earlier this week he was owned in less than 10% of ESPN leagues and you can bank on almost of all of those being keeper or exceptionally deep single-season leagues. Not so now!

I’m pretty sure this would not have been the Nationals’ plan at the beginning of the season. Their lineup was set with power bats at the corners and their outfield reasonably well set. If they were to call Harper up further into the season, then they would have wanted to promote him off of overwhelming numbers in the minors. Even after Michael Morse suffered a setback in his rehab they resisted the call to bring him up. Finally, though, with Ryan Zimmerman hitting the DL and with the terrible production from their LF position, the Nats have taken the plunge.

I won’t undertake a full statistical breakdown of Harper here – you’ll see plenty of that elsewhere. Instead, I want to do what the Trade Counsel does best, and discuss Harper’s trade value.

Obviously, in long term keeper leagues, this call up won’t drastically impact his value. Whether he hits or not and whether he sticks in the majors for only 2 or 3 weeks or for the rest of the season, he will remain a future stud, and it will take a huge offer to tempt his current owner.

In single season leagues, the situation is much more tricky. That’s because his 2012 statistical impact in the majors is so hard to predict. He didn’t exactly tear it up in Spring Training, and he has been underwhelming at Double-A so far, though we would all expect that to turn around as the season moves on. He’s also struggled to hit lefties, hitting less than .200 this season. Add to that that he is still only 19, and the history of success for 19-year-olds in the majors is pretty thin. All in all, you’d think there was very little chance of success and that he’ll be demoted again as soon as Zimmerman is fit. However this is the super talented Bryce Harper we are talking about and not some journeyman AAA player.

In shallow leagues, he probably won’t have been owned, is probably worth nothing more than a speculative add and has very little trade value. The upside is intriguing, and the safety net of a deep FA pool means that there is very little danger in an add as long as you don’t need to drop a productive player in return. In the best case, you grab a player of real value, and in the worst case he can be dropped back to waivers after a few weeks.

In deeper single season leagues, he should be universally owned and that is reflected by his ownership jumping to over 60% in ESPN leagues over the last 2 days. The question is what he is worth in trade value. At this moment, that upside is tantalising but there’s a very real prospect that he spends no more than a month in the majors. That worry surpasses his value, though there may be someone in your league who finds that upside just too appealing and will pay a price to match. However, if I was a Harper owner, I’d be inclined to hold onto him, at least for the first week or so. If the hype exists now, imagine the frenzy if he hits a couple of home runs. There are always 2 or 3 owners in any league who want to be part of the next big thing, and will start anticipating something along the lines of Heyward’s debut season in 2010.

If I was to make a bid in a deep league for Harper, then I’d probably not offer more than a top 200 player, but then if I was a Harper owner then I wouldn’t accept less than a top 175 guy at the very least, but a decent introduction to the big leagues would raise that price considerably.

The Trade Counsel is a weekly trade column – please leave feedback or any trade questions below.

Around The Majors: April 28: Bryce Harper and Mike Trout Make Their Debuts and More
Around the Majors: August 27: Bard Impresses, Should Gallardo Be Benched & More


  1. Marky Mark says:

    Doesn’t have anything to do with Harper…but what the hell…this is the Trading Council, right?

    A guy offered me Votto+(someone I don’t want) for Pujols+Crawford. I rejected that, but I’m wondering if I should dig a little deeper.

    I really don’t feel any need to trade away Pujols, I think he’ll get right eventually, but since this is a long-term keeper league, the idea of getting a little younger at 1B while maintaining a stud-level bat is interesting….as well as the idea of dumping Crawford’s worthless hide. I misclicked when I drafted him, so I’d be happy to be rid of him.

    5×5, 12 teams, must keep 10, 2 DL spots.

    C – Hernandez
    1B – Pujols
    2B – Pedrioa
    3B – Bautista
    SS – Andrus
    LF – Braun
    CF – Kemp
    RF – J Upton
    Util – LaRoche
    Util – Jon Jay
    BN – Ellsbury
    DL – Crawford, V-Mart

    SP – Kershaw, Hamels, Garcia, Minor, Morrow, Bard, Trevor Bauer
    RP – Street, Johnson, Myers, Romo, Pestano

    I guess what I’m wondering is what caliber/tier of player should I be looking for to add to Votto to make this deal?

    • SimonJ - Trade Counsel says:

      In a league like this, getting Votto over Pujols (especially a struggling Pujols) isn’t a terrible thing at all. Who knows if Crawford will make an impact this year and he’s struggling to make it into your 10 keepers, so really all you need is a player who can contribute this season.

      If the other guy wants Crawford then it’s probable that he wants him as a keeper, so you may be able to squeeze a bit more out of him. There isn’t much you could do to improve the hitting, so I’d try to grab another pitcher.

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