Bryce Harper: Top 15 Outfielder in 2013?

ATLANTA, GA - SEPTEMBER 15: Centerfielder Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals lunges and hits a ground ball during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on September 15, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)

I posted my Outfielder 21-50 Rankings for 2013 on Monday, and included my Top 20 Outfielder Rankings as well. Some readers disagreed with my ranking of Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, as I ranked him as my 13th ranked outfielder for 2013. Am I too optimistic on Harper? I think not. I ranked him as my number 13 outfielder, as I think he can put up a 25 HR, 25 stolen base season in 2013.

As a 19 year old in his first season in the big leagues, Harper is hitting .262-.333-.459 with 19 HRs, 22 doubles, 8 triples, 86 runs, 51 RBI and 13 stolen bases. all in 484 at bats. Certainly not Mike Trout-like numbers, but still pretty good considering his age. Don't forget how Mike Trout struggled as a 19 year old last season, hitting just .220-.281-.390 with 5 HRs, 20 runs, 16 RBI and 4 stolen bases in 123 at bats last season. Small sample size applies, but no one expected Trout to have an MVP-like season when called up earlier this season.

More on Harper after the jump:

With Harper, we will have well over 500 at bats worth of data to analyze and to use to project how he will perform in 2013. My prediction of 25 home runs from him next season really isn't that far fetched considering he has hit 19 HRs already this season after getting called up in late April.

His 19 home runs ties him with Mel Ott for the second most home runs ever hit for a 19 year old, behind only Tony Conigliaro's 24 home runs. To put this in perspective, his 19 HRs as a 19 year old is better than Ken Griffey's 16 back in 1989 and Mickey Mantle's 13 back in 1951. Pretty good company, eh?

There are 27 outfielders who have hit more home runs than Harper has in 2012, but only ten of them have put up double digit home runs and stolen bases like Harper has. That list includes:

Ryan Braun (on his way to a 40-30 season)

Adam Jones

Carlos Beltran

Mike Trout (27 HRs, 46 SBs)

Andrew McCutchen

Jason Heyward

Josh Reddick

Alex Rios

B.J. Upton

Carlos Gonzalez

If not for Mike Trout's unbelievable season, I think we would be hearing more about Harper this season. The fact that we are not pushes his 2013 value down a bit. This is a good thing for fantasy owners, as you can extract value from him based on where he will be drafted in 2013.

Here is where Harper's peripheral stats rank amongst qualified outfielders according to Fangraphs:

  • His .196 ISO ranks 23rd, ahead of Justin Upton and Hunter Pence
  • His .459 SLG ranks 30th, ahead of Justin Upton and Nick Swisher
  • His 9.4% walk rate ranks 22nd, ahead of Jason Heyward and right behind Ryan Braun
Does Harper have things to work on? Sure. He swings at 34.4% of pitches outside the zone, but guys like Josh Hamilton and Ryan Braun swing at more pitches outside the zone than Harper. He also swings and misses on just under 12% of pitches seen, but most power hitters do.

A few years ago, I named Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp as my #1 ranked outfielder and first overall pick heading into his 2010 season. That was the offseason where he met Rihanna and underperformed the expectations of most fantasy writers and owners. I was a year early on that call, as Kemp had a monster 2011 season. Am I early on Harper? Maybe, but I am willing to take that risk. The guy has the drive to succeed and has an unbelievable work ethic.

My 2013 projection for Harper is a .275/.355/,500 triple slash line with 25 HRs, 85 RBI, 90 runs scored and 25 stolen bases.
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