The Other 20-Year-Old Phenom
Mike Trout tore up the majors in 2012, hitting .326, stealing 49 bases, smashing 30 homeruns and scoring 129 runs — stats he accumulated in just 139 games. Numbers that many thought were MVP caliber, but he fell short in votes to Miguel Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner. It is hard to imagine another young player having the season that Trout did in 2012, but I think in 2013 a different 20 year old has the potential to put up MVP like numbers — the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year, Bryce Harper.
The 20-year-old phenom has succeeded at every level of baseball thus far in his career. He hit .569 in his sophomore year of High School, and then graduated early to play baseball at a junior college. For the Southern Nevada Coyotes he hit .442 and 29 home runs with a whopping .989 slugging percentage. Harper then left junior college after one season to pursue his dream of playing in the MLB. The Washington Nationals selected him as the first overall pick in 2010. He was just 17. Once drafted, Harper was assigned to play in the minors, in which he hit .297 in 2011. Harper struggled at the start of 2012 in the minors hitting just .243 in his first 21 games, but it didn’t seem to matter as he got called up to the majors in late April. In the 139 games that Harper played, he hit .270 with 22 homeruns. He stole 18 bases and scored 98 runs, stats that are extremely impressive for a young man who was only 19 years old at the time. If Harper had played an entire season and continued hitting the way he did as well as getting around the same amount of at bats, he would have had about 620 total at bats and ended the season with roughly 25 home runs, 68 RBIs, 21 stolen bases and 114 runs scored — numbers that would have been incredible for a first year player in the big leagues. Harper will also be moving back to left field for at least the start of the season, which is the position that he has played the most since graduating from high school. Last season he had to learn center field on the fly, and players playing in a position with which they are uncomfortable can negatively affect the way that player hits. With the transition back to left field, Harper should be as comfortable as ever and it should translate well for him in the batters box.
Harper will only continue to improve, as he will have an entire offseason, spring training and full regular season with the Nationals (barring any injuries). He has as high a ceiling as anyone in baseball, and he already proved his worth in 2012. If Harper plays to his full potential I think he will shine in 2013 just as Trout did in 2012. The sky is the limit for Harper, and he might just prove that this season.