(Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Once deemed the “Chosen One” as a 16-year-old high school baseball player by Sports Illustrated, Bryce Harper is now seen as overrated by his peers.
In an anonymous poll of 143 MLB players conducted by ESPN The Magazine, players voted 24 percent for Harper as the league’s most overrated player. Harper beat Yasiel Puig with 21 percent of the votes and Alex Rodriguez with 14 percent.
What’s not Harper’s fault is his incredible feats that created that hype, leading to this overrated label. While rival Mike Trout has stolen the show and became the face of baseball, Harper has somehow became forgotten at just 21 years old.
At the ripe age of 16 Harper was named Baseball America’s high school player of the year, after getting his GED and playing at the College of Southern Nevada (with a wood bat) he won the Golden Spikes award at 17 years old and was then the No. 1 overall draft pick in the MLB draft. Ruthian expectations were immediately put on Harper’s plate.
Once he reached the majors at 19 in 2012, Harper showed his five-tool potential as he hit .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 59 RBIs, and 18 stolen bases. His five-win season produced his first All-Star appearance and won him the NL Rookie of the Year.
Last season, MVP expectations were given to Harper and an injury-hampered season saw him play in just 118 games. Harper had two injuries after running into the wall and before his first incident in April, he was hitting .344 through the first 26 games played. He had another crash with the wall in May. Harper made the All-Star team once again and finished the season hitting .274/.368/.486 with 20 home runs, 58 RBIs and 11 stolen bases.
When put into perspective at 20 years old, what seemed like a down season due to the hype, was quite impressive with all the hard-nosed injuries.
While the next crop of young players are already being talked about, consider what Harper did as a teenager in the big leagues. Only four players in the history of the expansion era have reached enough at-bats to qualify for the batting title as a teenager. There was Robin Yount, Ken Griffey Jr., and Rusty Staub. Then, there’s Harper.
Somehow Harper is already old news and playing under the radar will certainly be new for him. Everyone wants to compare him to Trout, whose done stuff nobody has done before, though Harper has also done what few or nobody has done before. Appreciate his Pete Rose hustle and unprecedented ability, and most of all keep the overrated label somewhere else while Harper is just 21 years old.