Mike Rizzo, Roy Clark, Kris Kline had plenty to say about Bryce Harper's selection. And Harper himself had some interesting things to say on MLB Network right after getting drafted No. 1 in the country. We'll get to some of the best quotes here in a moment, but first a couple of points that were made during the press conference...
-- The Nationals introduced Harper as an outfielder, and Rizzo said he will play outfield exclusively moving forward. I was surprised by this, because everything I heard previously from people within the organization was that the Nats planned to let Harper both catch and play right field and see where he best fit. Rizzo, though, believes Harper's quickest path to the majors (and best ability to stay there longer) is in the outfield, so that's where he'll play.
-- Rizzo saw Harper play in person only once, last month in Las Vegas, but immediately realized he was the runaway choice as the No. 1 pick. Clark and Kline have been watching Harper for two years now and have seen everything they need to see of him on and off the field. Clark's first reaction upon seeing Harper as a 15-year-old in high school? "Oh my gosh. Who is this guy? ... And then I found he was 15 years old. You could see the chance to be special back then."
-- The Nationals say they have no issues whatsoever with Harper's character, makeup, personality, whatever you want to call it. Rizzo did say, however, that the kid won't be allowed to wear that war paint on his face anymore.
-- Even though Rizzo expressed hope a contract can be signed before the August deadline, he seemed pretty resigned to the fact this will go right down to the wire once again. Whenever Harper does sign, he's most likely to report to the rookie Gulf Coast League in Viera. "We're certainly not going to rush him," Rizzo said.
-- Scouts love to make comparisons to former players, and Kline has done it with Harper. But the comparable names may surprise you: "For me, if he's in right field, it's a cross between maybe a cross between a Larry Walker-type guy, maybe a little bit of a J.D. Drew the way his hands work through the zone."
OK, some of the best quotes from all the parties...
GENERAL MANAGER MIKE RIZZO
On making Harper an outfielder: "We're going to take the rigors and the pressure of learning the difficult position of catcher away from him and really let him concentrate on the offensive part of the game, and let his athleticism take over as an outfielder. He's got above-average speed and a plus-plus throwing arm. We believe he could pull off being a major-league catcher. We think his bat is well ahead of his defense as a catcher. And with the rigors of the game of catching -- the squatting, the beating they take behind the plate -- we just think it will accelerate his development in the minor leagues and also extend his career as a major leaguer."
On Harper's character: "This kid is a baseball rat. We've got a great foundation on where the kid's from. We know him as well as any team in baseball can know a player. We've been scouting him for a long time. We've done a lot of homework on his character, his family background and that type of stuff. The college coach over there is a good friend of Roy Clark's and has been for many, many years. We know him inside-out. This kid gets after it like few amateur players have since I've been doing this. He's a great kid. He's a very spiritual kid, solid family background, good parents. We have high expectations, not only of his tools, but of his makeup and his character."
On his development plan as a 17-year-old: "The junior college portion of it shows that he can handle accelerated players, not only at his age, but players that are much older than him. Utilizing a wooden bat, I think, is a huge advantage that he has over other 17-year-old players. But the fact is, he is a 17-year-old. He's going to be a 17-year-old throughout the whole season. So he would even be considered a young 17-year-old player in the draft. We're going to take that into account. As you've seen with other players that we've developed, we're certainly not going to rush him. We're going to develop him the right way, by our timeline, by our development curve. We're not going to move him until we feel he's mastered where he's been. And when he does, we'll move him up accordingly."
On the hype that will surround Harper: "We're going to protect the player. We're going to limit access if we feel it interferes with what we're trying to do. And we make no apologies for it. This is all about getting the players to maximize their development, to expedite their development, in a careful, prudent, calculated way to get them to the right place at the right time and to help us perform in the major leagues."
ASSISTANT GM ROY CLARK
"We've been scouting him extensively. We think he's got a chance to be a special-type player on the field, and a special player off the field. We are delighted to have selected him with the first pick in the 2010 draft. But from this point forward, we would like to pick 30th every year and not 1."
SCOUTING DIRECTOR KRIS KLINE
Overall thoughts on Harper: "I got to see Bryce play, probably, 20 games total, probably 80 at-bats. So we have a really high comfort level with what type of player he is, what type of player he's going to be. I think we feel this is the only bat in this draft that has the potential to be a 3-hole hitter. And, of course, hitting from the left side only adds to the value. This is a very special player that brings a lot to the table. I think you guys are really going to enjoy seeing this kid play in a couple of years."
Describing Harper as a player: "Very advanced for his age. Very polished. You look at him, and he does thing where you go, 'He's 17 years old.' And you can roll in there on another day and see things that you see 25-, 26-year-old kids do. He has the ability to keep the bat in the strike zone. He sees the ball extremely well. Just a very advanced, simple approach. And that knack for driving the ball the other way, which tells me how advanced he is at this point. Just a very good feel to hit at his age."
BRYCE HARPER, ON MLB NETWORK
Asked if he's prepared to go to the outfield: "Yeah, I can get better out there, I think. Anywhere they need me, I'll play. I'll play third, I'll play outfield, I'll play center. Anywhere they need me, I'll play there. I just want to make it. We'll see what happens when I get there."
On the transition from aluminum to wood bat: "When I was younger, a guy named Eddie Williams, he came and hit with me. And he told me I needed to put a wood bat in my hand and start swinging from a young age. I think I was about 7 or 8 years old when I swung my first wood. It was a "Hoosier." It just felt really good in my hands, and when I took BP that's all I'd usually hit with, and then I'd take my last 20 swings with aluminum. I think that made it even easier, growing up swinging wood my whole life. I think that made it a lot easier going to college."