Hard To Go Wrong With Top 100's Top Trio
In most years, Bryce Harper would be an easy pick as baseball's No. 1 prospect. So would Matt Moore. And Mike Trout.
But this isn't most years, and we have to choose between the best young power hitter many scouts ever have seen, an ace lefthander and a legitimate five-tool center fielder. All three proved their bona fides in 2011, with Harper reaching Double-A at age 18, Moore narrowly missing a third straight minor league strikeout title before overpowering the Rangers in the playoffs and Trout winning Baseball America's Minor League Player of the Year award.
Our staff had differing opinions on how to stack Harper, Moore and Trout up against each other. So did 11 player-personnel officials with big league clubs whom we contacted. Here's what they had to say:
"I break it down as HARPER
, Trout, Moore in that order. Moore is very good, but if you can bet on a bat over an arm, it's a much safer bet. Harper is the best prospect, bar none, in the minor leagues. What he has done at his age . . . he has a chance to be the best player in baseball in five years.
"Then it's Trout vs. Moore. Trout has a chance to have all five tools and he's still very young. Moore is going to be really good and has a chance to be a true No. 1 starter. But I think he caught some teams at the right time at the end of last season, and I'm not sure he's going to put up the same numbers in 2012 that he put up in 18 innings last year. In the past, he had some trouble throwing strikes at times, and that's always in the back of your mind."
— PRO SCOUTING DIRECTOR, NL TEAM
"I'll generally opt for position players in this type of situation, so Moore would be third for me. It's close between the other two, but I'll give the nod to TROUT
due to the speed, the ability to play center field and being one year further along in his development. That said, Harper's upside with the bat is extraordinary."
— VICE PRESIDENT, NL CLUB
|How the player personnel experts ranked the game's three best prospects
"To me, it's MOORE
, Trout, Harper. Matt Moore is a No. 1 starter. He has all the components and makeup to be a true No. 1. He's in the elite class of guys with that ability—the strikes, the stuff, the delivery. He has one of the cleanest arms you'll see. It lends itself to longevity, strikes and quality. He gets double-pluses for his velocity and slider. I love the other two guys, too. They're the three top prospects in the game, without a doubt. I understand the risk with pitchers is more than it is with position players, but as far as pitchers go, Matt Moore is pretty safe.
"Harper and Trout are very safe bets to hit, very safe bets to have impact. I've always struggled a little bit with Harper's makeup. It's not bad makeup, but he's just not likable. He looks like he's competitive. He performs. He's all about baseball and getting better, living up to a high standard. Trout is a little bit more natural player to me. Everything with Harper involves a lot of effort. Everything is harsh and explosive and violent. Some of that's good in his game, but I prefer the guy who does it a little bit easier.
"The middle-of-the-field impact with Trout is a big separator. I think he'll hit and hit for power, and he's an absolute difference-maker on the field and on the bases. It's an extremely unique combination of 7 and 8 tools (on the 2-8 scouting scale), with the defense and baserunning so impactful. Harper is going to hit and hit for power. He'll do a lot of damage but have nowhere near the same impact on the field and on the bases. That's fine, he'll produce, but that's the separator between him and Trout."
— PRO SCOUTING DIRECTOR, AL TEAM
"I would take the position players even though starting pitching is huge. I'd take the guys who could help me win every day. I'd probably go HARPER
one, because of the real plus-plus power, and Trout two, even though Trout probably has better makeup. I just think Harper is going to separate himself with the bat and the power. Certainly nothing against Moore, because I think he's going to be an upper-part-of-the-rotation guy, but I'm taking the position players who are going to help me every day versus once every five days."
— SENIOR ADVISER, AL CLUB
Bryce Harper (Photo by Diamond Images)
"I would stack them up HARPER
, Moore, Trout. I would tend to take the everyday player over the pitcher. I would take Harper and that power. I've seen him enough to know he can be a plus outfielder. He has the ability to adjust the bat but does overswing quite a bit, which disturbs me. Maybe it's an age thing where he thinks he needs to hit the ball 450 feet every time. His intensity and ability to play any outfield spot is a positive.
"Matt Moore is going to be a No. 1 starter. He's close to that now. All of the pitches are in place. I saw the game against the Rangers in the playoffs, and a 22-year-old is not supposed to have that kind of mound presence. To see how totally in control he was against maybe the best offensive team in baseball—whew!
"Trout is a better athlete, but his hand-eye coordination leaves a little bit to be desired. He's caught a little in between a speed player—he can run like hell—or a power player, which he has plenty of. He still needs to find that balance between the two."
— ASSISTANT GM, NL TEAM
"I would take TROUT
. It's very close between Bryce and Mike because they're both very unique. I do think there are other guys out there like Moore, even though I do think he's fabulous. I would take Trout because he can kill you in any way. Bryce usually it's just with the bat, and as he grows older, the bat will get better and the defensive skills will probably get worse. He's going to be some kind of hitter, but Mike's not going to lose the ability to tear you up in all five ways."
— MAJOR LEAGUE SCOUT, AL CLUB
"It's a great debate. I would go HARPER
, Moore, Trout. All three are elite players. Harper's bat is as good a young bat as I've ever seen, as far as hitting and hitting for power. I didn't see catching as something he'd be able to do and he'll probably end up in right field, and he profiles well out there. His swing, with the bat speed and leverage and being reasonably direct to the ball—power hitters who are that compact are rare to find.
"With Moore, the big risk is just health like it is with all pitchers. I saw him in low Class A, and he didn't throw as hard as he does now but he had a good breaking ball. I saw him on TV last year and oh my gosh, everything you want to dream on with a guy, he did. His fastball was a grade or two better, his command and control went from maybe below average to above, he commanded power stuff, wow.
"Trout, I still think he's elite without question, but his bat isn't as good as Harper's. I think he has to prove it more. There's not as much pressure on his bat in center field, and he can play there. He's a strong kid but I don't see the loft-type swing for big power. He'll get bigger and stronger, and he's going to be a great player, but will he be as dominant as Harper? Harper will be special."
— ASSISTANT GM, AL TEAM
Matt Moore (Photo by Cliff Welch)
"Finding a No. 1 starter, it's going to be hard to sign that guy on the free-agent market or trade for him. You have to draft him. So I'd take MOORE
over Harper over Trout. I endorse position guys in the top part of the draft because they're less risky, but I have every belief in the world that Moore is a No. 1 starter.
"Power is another almost-impossible thing to find, so I'd take Harper over Trout. Projecting the kind of offensive numbers Harper could put up . . . With at least half the major league teams, Harper and Trout right now would be in their lineup today. Both are really, really close. Both can do so many things. Trout is a premium defender. Harper aggressively runs the bases and can throw."
— VICE PRESIDENT, AL CLUB
"Because of the risk factor and injury factor, I would take the pitcher last. I've thought about the other two guys and it's very close. I'd probably lean toward Trout because of the 90 run tool (on the 20-80 scouting scale) and the center-field ability. It's very hard to pass on Harper's bat with that power. It's pretty scary. Trout is going to have some pop too. He's a pretty elite leadoff kind of guy with some thump. He might have enough power to hit in the middle of the order.
"Harper is the best 17- or 18-year-old power hitter I've ever seen. His raw power is unbelievable. It might be 45-home run power, and you don't see that any more. Maybe I would take HARPER
. . . yes, I would. His power is going to help my team win more. He probably has a little more impact on the guys around him in the lineup. It's hard to say anyone's upside is unlimited, but maybe his is."
— VICE PRESIDENT, AL TEAM
Mike Trout (Photo by Larry Goren)
"You love all three of them. I'd go TROUT
, Harper, Moore. All things being equal, I'd go with the position player. As much as I love Matt Moore, pitchers break down. I'd go Trout over Harper because he plays in the middle. He has a chance to be a very good center fielder. He has power too. He'll hit 20-plus home runs with 30-plus doubles. Harper will be a corner guy. He has plus-plus bat speed and he hits it far. He makes more adjustments with his bat than people give him credit for, but I'll take the up-the-middle guy."
— ASSISTANT GM, NL CLUB
"I'd definitely take BRYCE HARPER
. His talent is phenomenal. He has a chance to be a 40-plus home run guy in the big leagues, hitting for average and with good speed. There's a certain temperament about him, pedal to the metal, full-bore all the time. In this era, a guy who can hit 40-45 home runs and still be an asset defensively is one of a kind. What he's done at a young age is almost unprecedented. I remember when our area scout first saw him, Harper was the best guy he saw all year—and he was a high school freshman.
"I saw Trout in high school, and he hit a rocket home run to center field that's still going. In his next at-bat, he smoked a ball to shortstop and still ran a 3.92 to first base from the right side. He has 80 speed (on the 20-80 scouting scale), he has a chance to be a top-of-the-scale defender and he's going to have power. He's so strong. There's so many things he can do, and he has a chance to have 60 power.
"I have to take those guys over a pitcher, but Matt Moore throws 95-100 miles an hour like he's playing catch in his backyard. To have a crippling breaking ball too and to be so poised is phenomenal. He's a testament to what the Rays have been doing. His stuff is off-the-charts meteoric."
— DIRECTOR OF PLAYER PERSONNEL, AL TEAM