'Stupid Tools:' Brady House Evokes Kris Bryant Comparisons Ahead Of 2021 MLB Draft
Brian Smith is no stranger to talent. As the head coach of Winder-Barrow High in Winder, Ga., he’s seen his fair share of talented players and teams.
At USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational in 2017, Smith’s club beat the defending champions of the event—a prospect-laden Huntington Beach (Calif.) High team—and later blanked Florida powerhouse American Heritage High to make the semifinals at the prestigious tournament.
Smith has coached plenty of great players. From catcher Beau Hanna—a 12th-round pick of the Red Sox in 2017—to current Yankees prospect Pat DeMarco to past first-round picks Travis Demeritte and Max Pentecost, the latter after three years at Kennesaw State.
Smith knows how to spot talent. He’s been around enough professional ballplayers to know what they look like. And he knows he has something just a little bit different than the average high school player with shortstop Brady House, his current star.
“It was just in crossing,” Smith said, thinking back to when he first put eyes on House as a 12-year-old. “I think there was an old camp. He was at a baseball camp that we hosted. You never can tell at that age what the growth is going to be like and the strength and the maturity, but you can see the skill set is there.
“You could tell something was there, but where things really got to be special is with how big and strong he took off.”
As a rising senior, House now stands around 6-foot-3 with about 215 pounds of muscular power. That isn’t what a typical high school player looks like. House was physical and tapered at age 15, and now some scouts say he looks like a young Kris Bryant. It’s no surprise that his physicality regularly shows up in games.
“This past spring we went to the Perfect Game showdown and faced good pitchers all the way through,” Smith said. “(Opposing pitchers were) trying to nibble to get him to chase something, and he completely went with a pitch to the gap when he needed to.
“They tried to waste one up and he was able to hang tough, and I think one of the pitches that stands out—it was a two-strike count, I think—just a little bit below the neck fastball that I felt like he was trying to protect. And he somehow got on top of that thing and hit about a 10-foot high line drive that went to the wall.
“So when you watch something like that you’re like, ‘OK, this is different.’ ”
But to understand just how different House is from a typical high school player, or even from a typical high-profile draft prospect, you can’t just watch him hit massive home runs or throw 96 mph off the mound.
To really understand House, you have to get inside his head.
“At the beginning of our season, everyone in the program writes down on an index card what their goal is for baseball,” Smith said. “What they want to get out of playing. This is something you could maybe hear from someone who’s cocky and kind of a different person than what you would expect from Brady.
“But I get the index card back from Brady and his goal was not to make it to the major leagues, not to be a first-round draft pick. He wrote down—and this is a very humble kid to write this down, it was 100% sincere—he wants to be a Hall of Famer.”
Scouts are universal in their praise for House.
“Premium body with tremendous feel to hit at the plate,” one scout said. “His only tool in question is his speed. Otherwise, (he has) premium tools and skills.”
“The tools that matter, he has them,” said another scout. “He has the most important tools, which are power and hit. He’s very, very talented.”
“Stupid tools,” said a third scout. “Maybe not Bryce Harper, maybe more Kris Bryant. He has like 65-ish, maybe 70 raw power right now (on the 20-80 scouting scale). He gets to it in games. Plays shortstop . . .
“He looks like a man already and he’s 15.”
The fourth scout is the most succinct: “He’s the truth.”
House became a commonplace name long before his draft class came into focus for scouting departments. That shouldn’t be surprising considering his performance as an underclassman and on the travel ball scene with Team Elite.
House combines double-plus juice with an advanced, adaptable approach at the plate.
“Not only does he have the strength and the bat speed and the body and the physical element, but he is on good pitching,” said one area scout. “He recognizes pitches very well, reacts very well, adjusts very well. He’s your slam-dunk high school bat in the Southeast this year.”
Defensively, House is bigger than the prototypical shortstop prospect. Because of that, he could be a candidate to move to third base or right field in pro ball, but some believe he’ll be fine at shortstop in today’s power-focused, shift-heavy game.
“His hands are pretty good,” the area scout said. “You are always going to just naturally think a guy with that body type won’t have that much range, but he does have a solid first step. He is going to dictate where he ends up playing.”
2021 Washington Nationals Instructional League Roster
Brady House headlines the Nationals' instructional league roster.
If it’s up to House, he’s going to keep playing shortstop. He knows he’s big for the position and he knows he’ll need to continue putting in the work to stick there. But he’s also seen the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Corey Seager and Carlos Correa handle the position.
“You have to be mobile over there,” House said, “. . . I just have to work really hard at it because I’m really tall and really big, so it’s going to be hard for me to stay low and have quick first-step jumps on the ball. Getting over to the ball, I’m going to have to be quicker, since I am bigger. But I just keep working hard at it and just trying to prove that I can stay over there.”
Smith said that all House has done at Winder-Barrow is put in work. It’s part of his personality, part of how he was raised.
“He’s so humble, so hard-working and his heart is just in the right place,” Smith said. “To me that is truly one of the things that stands out about him as much as any of his ability . . . He is very aware of people who are successful. He pays attention to that. His family is very grounded and they have done a great job with him and his brother (Brooks).”
House follows the draft every year. He keeps tabs on players who are progressing through the minors that he’s played with, like Marlins catching prospect Will Banfield and Cardinals’ 2020 first-round pick Jordan Walker. He spends a lot of time watching the best players in baseball, picking up things he can add to his own.
Smith believes that’s one of the reasons he’s such an advanced hitter in the box.
“I think he studies,” Smith said. “And I think he really pays attention and watches the best players and tries to emulate those guys. At our facility, he works and he works. It’s a year-round (type of) mindset . . . So there is some kind of internal drive in there that he’s not going to be satisfied with anything but maximizing his full potential.”
House understands the importance of this summer and knows how many eyes will be on him as he goes through one last travel ball and showcase circuit before his final season with Winder-Barrow next spring. When he’s not on the field, focusing on the next pitch or the next ground ball coming his way, his thoughts do go back to the draft.
He knows that is one of the next steps in becoming one of the best as he aims for Cooperstown. And that’s exactly where he’s set his sights.
“If you’re playing baseball right now, your main goal is, ‘Hey, I want to play in the big leagues one day,’ ” House said. “But my goal is to make it even further. I want to be the best of the best. The Hall of Fame is where the big dogs live.
“That’s where I want to be one day. I want to be remembered.