Throughout the offseason, The Nats Blog will look back at every player’s 2012 season to summarize and analyze his performance, and we’ll look ahead to his possible role in 2013. We’ll go from #1 Steve Lombardozzi all the way to #63 Henry Rodriguez until Spring Training. Enjoy.
A player like Bryce Harper is going to be recorded in baseball history as a special player, regardless of how he performs the rest of his career. People argue that he is over-hyped, and maybe to a degree that’s true. But the numbers speak for themselves, and they show that Harper is a great athlete, who played a huge role on baseball’s winningest team of 2012, and whose rookie season should not soon be forgotten. So just in case you need to be reminded how awesome Harper’s accomplishments last season were, keep reading.
Despite urgings from General Manager Mike Rizzo that Harper would not be rushed to the majors, when Ryan Zimmerman went on the disabled list on April 28, Harper’s time had arrived. He went to work right away, going 1-for-3 with an RBI in his debut, and earning NL Rookie of the Month for May, when he put together an offensive slash line of .271/.355/.505 with four home runs.
That was just the first award of many that Harper collected in his first year in the majors. He won NL Rookie of the Month for a second time in September for hitting .330/.398/.651 with seven homers and four stolen bases. He then went on to earn NL Rookie of the Year, as well as the Nationals Heart and Hustle Award, and an invitation to represent his team in the 2012 All-Star Game.
Harper finished the season with a slash line of .270/.340/.477 and 120 strikeouts. He nearly made it to a 20-20 season with 18 stolen bases and 22 home runs, and he ranked best on the team with his nine triples and 98 runs scored.
Compared with other 19-year-old major leaguers throughout MLB history, Harper ranked first in walks (56) and doubles (26), and second in triples, home runs and stolen bases. When you think about the fact his name was being mentioned in the same sentence as names like Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr. and Babe Ruth, you realize there’s a reason they call the kid a phenom.
And even though constantly being reminded of Harper’s teenage phenom-ness got a little old after a while, it truly is remarkable to step back and think that he achieved these incredible accomplishments, which some players don’t earn in their entire careers, when the average player his age was a college freshman with a vague dream of being drafted in the next few years. Take away all the awards and the great performance, just his ability to play in the postseason as a 19-year-old is enough to make any college player faint with jealousy.
In addition to his fantastic numerical contributions to the team – Fan Graphs gave him a 4.9 WAR value – Harper’s presence on the team added much to the narrative of the Nationals’ thrilling rise to excellence. Stealing home off Cole Hamels and prompting Rizzo to make some animal references, the unparalleled amounts of eye-black he painted on his cheeks during day games, his involvement with the benches-clearing brawl against the Chicago Cubs, running around the outfield with blood streaming down his face, his feud with Ozzie Gullien, and chasing the teenager home run record, all kept Nationals fans supremely entertained in 2012.
With a personality and mindset toward the game like Harper’s, Nats fans are pretty much guaranteed another long list of memorable Harper moments in 2013. And for the people who wonder, can he do it again? That’s a clown question, bro.
Next Year: Harper will play left field in 2013, and will have a place in the Nationals outfield for many years to come (he doesn’t become eligible for arbitration until 2015). It’s exciting to think what he is capable of producing at the plate with a whole year of major-league experience under his belt, especially if he is hitting third or fourth in the lineup.
Up Next: #35 Craig Stammen