One player I have been known to criticize often is Washington Nationals’ outfielder and 2010 first-round draft pick, Bryce Harper. I have been outspoken about his attitude, his arrogance, and his immaturity, based in large part to his behavior off the baseball field since being drafted in 2010. However, now that Harper has been in the Majors for over a month, I can honestly say that he is a good all-around baseball player. In the 27 games in which Harper has played so far, he has a batting average of .287 with 29 hits, including 6 doubles, 3 triples, 4 home runs, and 11 RBIs. He also has 2 stolen bases (including a steal of home plate) and an on-base percentage of .376. Some other things that are impressive about the 19-year old “phenom” include:
· Harper is very patient at the plate. He has 14 walks so far, and batters who are that young often tend to swing at everything (which is probably why he has struck out 19 times so far); so the fact that he has allowed himself to be walked that many times shows that he is disciplined at the plate and selective as to when to swing the bat.
· Bryce plays the game hard. His hustle has been compared to that of Pete Rose (my husband agrees with that one), his running style and speed have been compared to those of Roberto Clemente, and his hunger to catch any ball that is hit to the outfield is comparable to that of Torii Hunter (though Harper is far from Gold Glove caliber). The kid seems to give 100% of his effort all the time, whether at the plate, on the bases, or in the outfield.
· Harper seems to know the game of baseball. He’s not just raw talent; you can tell he’s had good coaches throughout his life and it’s obvious that last year’s minor-league experience helped him immensely. He may be arrogant and cocky, but you can tell that he genuinely likes to play the game and takes it very seriously (now Bryce, honey, if you could only learn to hit the cut-off man when throwing from the outfield to home plate!).
Bryce Harper still has a lot of learning to do, especially since he grew up as a catcher and has been converted into an outfielder. But if he continues to listen to his coaches (don’t try to stretch a double into a triple if Bo Porter tells you to stop running!) and keeps working this hard, Harper may become one of the game’s most exciting players to watch.