Welcome to “Get To Know a Nat.” There are currently 39 men on the 40 man roster, and we’re going to give you the straight scoop on all of them! Not sure where to start with player and season previews? Not ready to jump into heavy metrics? Just want to get to know the players, what they do, and what to expect from them in 2013? Then you’ve come to the right place!
Click here to read yesterday’s column about Denard Span.
Name: Bryce Aron Max Harper
Nickname(s): The Kid, Bam-Bam, Harp
DOB: October 16, 1992 (20 years Old)
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
Position: Left Field Batting Order: Currently 2nd, but that may change
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2010, Debuted in MLB in 2012
So, have you heard of this guy? Bryce Harper? He might be a big deal one of these days… But, you never know.
Seriously, though-unless you are absolutely brand new to baseball and/or Washington D.C. you must have heard of Bryce Harper on some level by now. Drafted at 17, making his MLB debut at 19, Harper hit rarefied air for a player his age. Showing skill and, frankly, maturity well beyond his age, Harper was voted an All-Star and won National League Rookie of the Year for his outstanding play in 2012.
Harper will be playing his first full year of Major League service in 2013. He will not be afforded the luxury of having his performance measured on a sliding scale based on his age or experience. Big things are expected of Harper, and he’ll have to meet (and likely exceed) those expectations qualify for having a “good year” this year.
What’s Expected: “Expected” is a tricky word when talking about Bryce Harper. The hype around Harper makes it hard to gauge what exactly one should expect from a 20 year old in his second year in the big leagues-particularly because he tends to shatter normal expectations.
Everything about Harper seems to scream “He can’t possibly be that good” and than he is. Case in point, David Huzzard and I joking around two nights ago:
— Nationals 101 (@Nationals101) February 19, 2013
And yet, on some level there is a part of me that doesn’t want to rule that out…
It isn’t just Washington with outsized expectations either. His MLB debut in Los Angeles elicited a reaction from the Dodger crowd usually reserved for much more established (and hated!) players like Barry Bonds-before Harper had his first at bat!
Despite having ridiculously outsized expectations last year for someone so young, Harper exceeded many (if not all) of them. Comparing him to other NL rookies (As I collected from this WaPo article), he seems almost pedestrian if you look at any one statistical ranking: 22 home runs (2nd best), 59 RBIs (4th), 98 runs scored (1st), 18 stolen bases (2nd), .817 on-base plus slugging percentage (4th) and nine triples (1st).
He was doing very well in all categories, but it wasn’t as if he was in first by a mile in each of them. It’s only when you consider that Harper missed the first month of the season, had a major slump in the middle of last year, and oh yeah, he is 19, that his greatness begins to take shape. Even then, looking at these numbers, you only begin to glean how special he is. When you watch him play, however, you really get it-and also get that he can improve a great deal as well.His Baseball-Reference batting statistics: Harper as a hitter will be expected to get better in a few ways: The team will hope he can strike out less often (largely by getting better with Left Handed pitching, I’d imagine) and that his offensive numbers will improve. If you look, BBR “projects” he’d hit 26HRs if he’d played a full year. That means you’re likely talking about Harper, a 20 year old, hitting 30 home runs next year. That’s almost too much power for the second batter in the line-up. Couple that with the fact that he’d be the second lefty in a row in the lineup and I’d expect Harper to spend at least some time in other parts of the lineup-which could improve his RBI totals even more. Harper will probably also be asked to be smarter about how and when he uses his talents. More than once he tried stretching singles into doubles, or doubles into triples, and got caught out for his effort. Especially disappointing since that speed could be much better used going from first to third or home than trying to get those bases all at once. Similarly, he tried to throw guys out a few times rather than hitting cutoff men, which cost the team a few bases. If he can learn that playing 100% doesn’t always mean being insane, he’ll be that much more of a headache for opposing players. Lastly, Harper will also be playing in Left Field instead of Center, where he spent last year. Harper made great strides for a converted Catcher to learn how to play the outfield in the minors, and adapted pretty well to the Bigs. Still, how the ball comes into Left, and where you’re expected to throw it, is different from Center. There will be an adjustment period, most likely, for Harper to get it all down. That said, it’s a smaller field (and he’ll be closer to us fans!), so once he gets it down he could be part of a lights out outfield. If It All Goes Well: The expectations are once again shattered, and Harper steals 25 bases, mashes 30 home runs, bats just under .300 and still gets a bunch of triples. He shores up what, suddenly, is an exceptional offense that can put the ball out of the park at almost any point in line-up. Harper sets the table for what will be the foreseeable future in the NL East, and caps his season with his first Pennant. If It All Goes Wrong: Harper’s problems with Left Handed pitching persist, and get worse. The league is very good at making batters suffer the second time around, and Harper fails to adjust. The sophomore slump kicks in, and drags the batters around him down forcing Davy to do some line juggling. A potent player becomes an after thought, just another young player learning the ropes and all of Natstown hopes his third year was more like his first.