Bryce Harper was hyped as a future star ever since he was a Las Vegas high schooler. He gained massive buzz for doing things like (unofficially) crushing 500 foot home runs at the age of 16. Add to that the fact that he was a catcher who had a chance to either stick behind the plate, or utilize his athleticism to easily transition to another position, and it’s easy to see where the hype train came from.
Well, it didn’t take long (if any time at all) for that hype to materialize for Harper. He spent just over one full season in the minor leagues before getting the call to the show, and performed well from the start. He was the clear NL Rookie of the Year in 2012 hitting .270/.340/.477 with a 121 wRC+ and a 4.6 fWAR. He came back strong for his sophomore season, apart from some injury concerns, putting up a 137 wRC+ and 4.0 fWAR. 2014 was a little less exciting as the injuries continued and he posted just a 115 wRC+ and 1.4 fWAR in 100 games.
But what I am really interested in is his current season. Harper has absolutely dominated this season, in every facet of the game. .342/.471/.672 — 41 home runs — 206 wRC+ — 9.7 fWAR, all with over a week left to go. He hits for average, he draws walks, he hits dingers, and he plays above average defense in the outfield. In fact, he has done the first three of those better than just about anyone else in baseball. That’s not something that happens very often, as evidenced by the fact that he is on pace for a 10 WAR season, which has only been done seven times since 2000, by the likes of Barry Bonds (4), Alex Rodriguez (1) and Mike Trout (2).
His season projects to be top 50 all-time by fWAR, and top 30 all time by wRC+. Beyond that, there are only 14 other seasons in baseball history of a walk rate at or above 19 percent, an on-base percentage at or above .460, over 40 home runs, and a wRC+ of 200 or better. Nine of those were by Babe Ruth, four were by Barry Bonds, and one was by Mark McGwire. And oh yeah, they didn’t do it until the ages of 25 (Ruth), 35 (McGwire) and 37 (Bonds). Harper is doing it at 22, in an era dominated by pitching. Let that sink in a bit. We are witnessing historic greatness, in the form of Bryce Harper, and yet it doesn’t feel as though people are taking notice, at least not the kind that his season deserves.