It's always interesting to see when a team uses their draft in a way that is a little different than others. The Brewers in 2014 had three selections within the first 50 picks of the draft, and went with three different high upside talents in Kodi Medeiros, Jacob Gatewood, and Monte Harrison. All three players had mixed reports coming into the draft, with all of them flashing extremely loud tools but with different things which made them high risk as a potential top draft pick. Today let's take a look at the third of these picks, outfielder Monte Harrison.
Harrison came into the draft viewed as a potential top draft pick based on the raw potential that his tools showed. He was a three-sport athlete in high school, and committed to play football at Nebraska. Baseball America had him as the 20th best prospect in the draft in their final pre-draft rankings, but there were concerns about whether he would choose baseball over football and sign with a team. The Brewers nabbed Harrison with their second round pick at #50 overall, and were able to get him to forego school with an overslot bonus of $1.8 million.
Harrison stayed in Arizona after signing, appearing with the Brewers' AZL team in 50 games. The performance overall was solid, with a .261/.402/.339 slash line with 32 stolen bases in 34 attempts and a 31:48 walk-to-strikeout total. The organization sent him to their Midwest League affiliate to start this season, where in 22 games he is hitting .145/.270/.250 with two home runs and three stolen bases, along with 42 strikeouts against 8 walks.
The profile on Harrison is that he can potentially be a five-tool talent, but that he may need more development than your usual 19-year-old due to the fact that he has not concentrated solely on baseball until now. The stolen bases jumped off the page last year, but the reports from the offseason on Harrison point to him providing some value in steals, but not the elite potential that was on display in the AZL. He's not necessarily going to be a baseclogger by any stretch, but the ceiling on the steals may be 25-30 a season rather than an even higher number.
His power potential isn't elite, but showed a fairly easy power on both of his home runs this season, pulling them both to left field in a hurry. There are good reports on his raw power potential, which bodes well for his in-game to potentially develop as well. There's the potential for him to be a 20+ home run hitter most seasons, although that will be dependent on how his hit tool and pitch recognition develop.
As you might expect from a raw player like Harrison, he needs a fair amount of development still in terms of batting average and hitting in general. He has shown a propensity to strike out at a high rate so far, which upon viewing some of the at bats in question this year, points very heavily toward his ability to recognize specific pitches. That will be something that will come with time and repetitions, as he needs to see more offspeed and breaking pitches in order to do a better job of not flailing at them. I'll be interested to see how he adapts as the season progresses, and whether he can lay off those pitches a little better and force the opposing pitchers to come closer to the plate.
Defensively, Harrison profiles very well in center field, as he is considered an above-average defender with a strong arm. It's not clear yet if he will be able to stay in center field or if he will grow so much as to need a move to right field, but would profile well at either spot.
Overall, the name that keeps coming into the back of my head as a similar development path is Royals' outfielder Bubba Starling. It was expected that Starling would take a while to develop since he had not concentrated fully on baseball either, and while he's not there yet in his fifth professional season, there are signs of life that can lead you to see he still may deliver.
Harrison is a prospect that has the raw tools to potentially be an impact talent for fantasy, but due to his lack of experience against high-level competition, will need longer to develop toward that end. I think it's possible we see Harrison repeat Low-A in 2016 if he continues to struggle, and we may not see him in the majors until the 2018 or 2019 season. He's a name worth monitoring as he could be a five category contributor, but I wouldn't invest except in deep mixed or NL-only formats right now.