Name: Bryce Aron Max Harper
Nickname(s): The Kid, Bam-Bam, Harp, Hahpah!
DOB: October 16, 1992
From: Las Vegas, Nevada
Position: Left Field Batting Order: Currently 2nd, but that may change
Lefty EDIT: bats left and throws right
With the Nats Since: Drafted in 2010, Debuted in MLB in 2012
Just Who is this guy?: Seriously. if you are asking this question I feel like I should be welcoming you out of your coma, or welcoming you back from the Lost Island, or just asking if you’re “okay.” I guess it’s possible you’ve never ever paid attention to baseball, or are brand new to DC, or both. Maybe, you’re like my mom who is both from another country and has no interest in sports. As such, I’d suggest you’d read our 2013 preview to get you basically up to date to with maybe the most exciting, most heralded, and pretty damn good young players in a long time.
What Happened in 2013?: Bryce had his share of troubles and problems in 2013, just like almost everyone else on the Nats in 2013. Injury was complicated by the “no really I’m fine” attitude that managers both love and hate in their players. After Harper ran full-throttle into the wall at Dodgers Stadium (when I suggested we all get off the kid’s back) he really wasn’t the same player. His overall numbers (274/368/486 a wOBA of 371, 20 HR) weren’t awful. Especially for a guy who missed 50ish games in his second year in the majors. Those extra 50 games probably get him at least 5 more home runs, and if he had been healthy for the whole year…
But he still wasn’t “Bryce Harper expectations” good. Unlike a lot of other players where I am prone to say expectations are out of whack with what a person should expect, Harper is a guy who I do expect to live up to some outlandishly unfair expectations.
It wasn’t all just injury with Harper though. His outfield adventures aside, Harper has some plate discipline issues as well. His splits against lefties got worse from 2012 to 2013 (even though his numbers against righties got better).
Year AB vs LHP | AB vs RHB
2012 202 240/300/415 15 BB 51 K 6 HR | 350 286/360/509 41 BB 69 K 16 HR
2013 158 214/327/321 21 BB 35 K 2 HR | 339 300/388/560 40 BB 59 K 18 HR
Harper arguably did more in less chances against righties in 2013, which is promising. His 2013 lefty splits, however, leave much to be desired. It may simply be that he just hasn’t seen enough lefties yet in his young career. The fact he drew 6 more walks against lefties in 44 few at bats may be an indication that he’s willing to lay off a bit. The problem is when he does take his chances on a swing, he’s still getting fooled badly.
Like any other lefty batter, Harper is likely not going to hit left handed pitching better, or as well, as he hits righties-but he has to do better than he is now. He has to at least make it harder for pitchers to get him out-make more contact, take more balls, etc. Harper had exactly 2 (TWO) hits against left handed relievers all year (in 21 Plate Appearances). That’s abysmal even if it is a small sample size.
What’s Expected in 2014: After getting his knee cleaned out in surgery, Harper may be a slow starter in Spring Training. Still, he should be all set for the 2014 season when it starts. As such, Harper basically has two jobs in 2014: Stay healthy and be Bryce Harper. In an effort to be a bit…uh…sturdier?… Harper has added some weight to his frame. This may not save him if looks to break through the outfield wall again Even if he doesn’t hit lefties any better, he ought to be in the 25+ HR club and ought to continue to murder righties.
Of course, that’s like saying Neo would have been a pretty good foot solider for the human resistance against the Matrix if he hadn’t lived up to his potential to be the One. Just have a cookie and forget all about this conversation Bryce. There is no spoon anyway, right?
The Nats can live with the healthy version of the 2013 season from Bryce Harper, but it won’t really deliver on the promise of Bryce Harper.
If it all goes right?: Harper doesn’t have to fill in for Werth in RF, and knows exactly where the outfield wall is at all times. He plays 155+ games, bats .250 or better against lefties and the rest, as they say, takes care of itself. 30+ Home Runs, a ton of doubles, a few triples (because he still can’t help but run as hard as he can) and Harper becomes the linchpin in a scary, healthy line-up.
Braves Barves fans come to hate Bryce Harper the way Cubs fans hated Albert Pujols, for the same reasons.
If it all goes wrong?: Harper continues to struggle with the distinction between “giving it your all” and “stupidly giving it your all.” He’s “tries to hard guy” and re-injuries his knee on some play where you’re thinking “Bryce, you didn’t need to do that.” He continues to be useless against lefties, and is just an automatic out when one is pitching-giving the other team a distinct advantage either with the starter (where he’d have to start being moved down in the order) or against relievers (where the Nats would have to decide whether to keep him in or not).
This isn’t a make or break year for Bryce Harper by any stretch. It does certainly feel like a “show me what you got” kind of year, tho. Truthfully, most of the Nats are in that boat this year. For a young guy who wants to be a leader on this club, he may not have a better chance to lead by example than 2014.