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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Fantasy baseball: Is Bryce Harper a fantasy starter?

Maybe it's the hair.

Or the demeanor many interpret as cockiness.

Maybe it's just the fact that Bryce Harper has been labeled The Next Big Thing in baseball since he appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in June 2009 -- at age 16.

Whatever the reason, Cole Hamels -- who drilled Harper on the back in the first inning Sunday night -- is far from the only big-leaguer who would seem to like nothing better than to throw something at the Nationals' 19-year-old outfielder.

I might be in the minority, but I love watching Harper play.

If you need to know anything about his on-field demeanor, all you have to do is watch his reaction to getting plunked by Hamels on Sunday. He moved from first to third on a single, then stole home when Hamel attempted to pick off Jayson Werth at first base.

He's old-school. He plays so hard he seems out of place at times. He solicits emotional reactions like few others in his sport.

Bryce Harper is a lot of things.

But is he a must-start in fantasy?

For most rookies, especially in baseball, I would say no. With Harper, I would say yes.

In his first 26 at-bats in the big leagues, he is batting .308 with a .924 OPS. He has more walks (five) than strikeouts (four), and five of his eight hits are doubles.

He hasn't hit a homer, but the power will come.

In 459 at-bats in the minor leagues, Harper batted .290 with 18 homers, 61 RBI, 71 runs, 27 stolen bases and an .865 OPS. Keep in mind, 387 of those 459 at-bats were in 2011, when Harper was 18.

He can hit for average and power, and he could steal 20 bases as a rookie.

He's a starter.

Among other things.

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