Despite increased chatter about problems with Bryce Harper's character, the Nationals have no concerns about the top prospect's makeup.
A high-ranking club official said a recent report slamming the 17-year-old catcher for having attitude issues was "way overblown" and the Nats have no qualms about selecting him first overall in the June draft based on personality traits.
"Is he confident? Yeah," the team official said. "Is he cocky? Yeah. Does he think he's the best player on the field at all times? Yeah. But find me a great player who doesn't think that about himself."
The Nationals have not settled on Harper, a freshman at the College of Southern Nevada who has already appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated and been hyped as the "LeBron James of baseball," as their choice yet but are leaning toward selecting him with the top pick. In 47 games so far, Harper is batting .410 with 21 homers, 59 RBI and a 1.414 OPS.
The critical Baseball Prospectus report on Harper's character, published last week, said despite the catcher's overwhelming physical ability, it's difficult to find a talent evaluator who "doesn't genuinely dislike the kid." One scout was quoted in the report calling Harper "among the worst amateur players he's even seen from a makeup standpoint, with top-of-the-scale arrogance, a disturbingly large sense of entitlement, and on-field behavior that includes taunting opponents."
The Nats official, though, said members of the club's scouting department, including vice president of player personnel Roy Clark, have spent considerable time evaluating Harper as a player and as a person and have no concerns about his makeup. Clark has a longstanding relationship with CSN baseball coach Tim Chambers, who has vouched for Harper's character.
The Nationals' scouts believe any issues Harper has are more a product of his young age and inexperience than anything, and that he's likely to mature once he becomes a professional and begins playing with older teammates.