After going 2 for 3 with a two-run home run and a walk in today's win over the Cincinnati Reds, 20-year-old Washington Nationals' outfielder Bryce Harper has a .373/.453/.783 line with five doubles, a triple and nine home runs in 23 games and 95 plate appearances this season. This afternoon's game in Nationals Park was Harper's 162nd and it came one day short of the one-year anniversary of his first major league game. Last April 28th, the Nats called their top prospect up to meet them in LA for the then-19-year-old slugger's debut against the Dodgers. Washington Post writer Adam Kilgore added it up and this is what his first 162 games look like:
Bryce Harper's first 365 days and 162 games in the majors: .284/.356/.519, 31 homers, 68 walks, 133 strikeouts.— Adam Kilgore (@AdamKilgoreWP) April 27, 2013
The 2010 no.1 overall pick has also hit 31 doubles and 10 triples, stolen 19 bases, driven in 77 runs, scored 115 and steadily improved defensively in the two-plus years since he was converted from a catcher to an outfielder upon being selected by the Nationals with the second of back-to-back no.1 overall picks. Not bad, right? Nats' skipper Davey Johnson was asked after today's game if it was hard to believe what the preternaturally gifted "kid" has accomplished already in his career. "If you know him it's not," Johnson said, "Because he probably expects that he's having an off-year right now."
"I talked to him last year and even through the bad times he had a great frame of mind. He expects a lot of himself and that's a good trait." Earlier in the homestand, Johnson talked about how Harper's approach extends beyond the actual games to his preparation and everything he does to attempt to continue to get better. The 70-year-old skipper who played 13 seasons in the majors and is currently in his 17th as a manager was asked what impressed him the most about the player he's been tasked with guiding through his first few seasons in the league.
"I mean, his approach," Johnson responded, "And what he does, the way he does, his work habits, not just the way he plays the game, but his work habits have been great. His BPs, he takes BPs really like you want to write a textbook on it. He hits the ball where it's pitched, uses the whole field, stays within himself really. Seeing [his] work habits leading up to the game -- everybody sees what he does in the game, but his preparation is awful good."
Johnson's overseen every step of Harper's major league career thus far and he has nothing but positive things to say when Harper's name is brought up. After the Nats' left fielder went 2 for 3 with a double and a home run in the first game of the current series with the Reds, Johnson said it's just more of the same from the Nationals' three-hole hitter.
"That's Harp," the manager said, "He's 100% in. He's seeing the ball good and laying off bad pitches and not trying to expand the zone like he did in that bad period last year. He's been very consistent from day one of Spring." That "bad period" in his rookie campaign lasted for about 45 games coming out of the All-Star Break. Over that stretch, Harper put up a .214/.281/.376 line with three doubles, two triples and seven home runs in 194 plate appearances. When he snapped out of it, he did so in a big way, however, posting a .330/.400/.643 line in the last month-plus of the season and going 3 for 23 with a double, triple and a home run in the five-game NLDS with St. Louis.
Harper came into his first Spring Training as a member of the major league team and went 32 for 67 (.478/.500/.716) over 25 games. "He's totally committed to [having] a good year," Davey Johnson said after Harper started his season with two home runs on Opening Day, "I mean, he had a phenomenal Spring, the best Spring I've ever seen anybody have and continuing on."
And on... and on... fans in the nation's capital are hoping...