FanPost

What is Bryce Harper going to do at age 20?

Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE

The guy is a beast for his age. We all know this. Last offseason I believed he would fail hard, thinking he was getting pushed up the minor leagues too quickly which I thought was evident from his .256 batting average in AA in 2011. The promotion in April this past year seemed like a huge mistake. I figured they would hurt his development by pushing him too hard but the organization proved it knew its player better than I did. Shocking, I know.

Anyways, last year he had a .282 batting average in the first half and a .260 in the second half. He struggled just after the All-Star break but finished strong with a .330 batting average in September. I would say a reasonable projection for him in 2013 would be something in the .275 to .290 range, with absolute possibility for more if he has some luck on his side. Improvement at this point should be expected and given how he's exceeded expectations so far in his development I would certainly not expect him getting worse. If you watched any Nationals games last year you would have noticed the change in his demeanor throughout the season. I watched nearly every 5th game due to owning Strasburg in one of my leagues and therefore watched Harper throughout the season. He started the season with a "big man on campus" aura and finished looking like he was battling to win as a team player.

The most important part of Harper's stat line is forever going to be his power. He hit 22 in 5 months last year. Prorated for a full season he would theoretically hit 25 home runs. Improvement is likely yes. So what, 30 home runs? See, this is what brings me to my main point. He was 19. For Bryce, every week was a learning experience and as the season went on he became more of the player he is bound to be. The 5 months in the majors was probably equivalent to 2+ years in the minors. Obviously you all can choose to look at his stats however you want, but personally what I look at is his last few months and see how he finished the season. This, in my opinion, will show you most accurately what he has to offer in 2013. In August/September Harper hit .287 with 13 home runs. For May, June, and July Harper had a HR/FB rate of 11.8%, 17.4%, and 4.8% respectively. In August and September it was 23.1% and 23.3%, numbers that are much more likely from a power hitter. His FB% didn't even change much going from 32.5% in May-July to 33.3% in August/September.This just gives even more validity to the power spike at the end of the season. This may be overly optimistic but if you give Harper 6.5 home runs every month that projects out to 39 over a season... With the backing of a completely reasonable peripherals is 40 home runs really that much of a stretch?

Rounding out his stat line you will probably get something around 15-25 stolen bases from him. He's still young and nimble. The runs will come in around the 100 mark, given a full season, several more home runs, still has speed, etc. etc. Runs Batted In should also get around that range. I have not looked at where they are planning on batting him but I don't think he will have trouble finding his way to 90+ RBIs in the lineup. So put it all together and what do you have???

If you just go by his full season 2012 stats you would predict something along the lines of the projections on fangraphs. Something like 25 home runs, 90 runs, 80 rbis, 20 stole bases, and an upper .270s batting average. Well look at the other outfielders at the bottom of the first round/top of the second. That's just what their lower end projections are. McCutchen, Cargo, Stanton, Bautista, Hamilton, Upton, Heyward, Granderson, and Jones are all ranked ahead of Harper in Yahoo's ranks. Add Jay Bruce and subtract Granderson you get ESPN's group of OF's going ahead of Harper (I'm not including Trout, Braun, and Kemp because they actually do belong ahead of Harper). If you piece together my feelings on Harper you would get a season with a .290 batting average, 35-40 home runs, 100 runs, 100+ rbi's, and 15 stolen bases. Those aren't lines you can see coming from any of those other players going ahead of Harper (well Hamilton could do that but he's got the whole injury risk thing and K-rate spike).

Am I saying take Harper 6th overall in your next draft? No, of course not. I'm saying take him with your second round pick, ideally bottom of the second/top of the third, and don't let him get away. Looking at all the players this year, Bryce Harper is the most glaring opportunity to get first round stats from a non first round player. Harper's ADP in Yahoo! is 34.7, just smell it. He's ripe for the picking. Just gotta reach out and take it. Now its time to actually do something with my Friday night. Thanks for reading.

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