Eleven years ago, the MLB gave its fans the opportunity to voice their opinions on the MLB All-Star Game with the Final Vote presented by Firestone. This year’s front-runner for the National League Final Vote may be Washington Nationals rookie sensation Bryce Harper.
However, there is reason to believe that Harper is not deserving of the final roster spot on the 2012 NL All-Star team.
No one doubts the splash that Harper made in 2012. The 19-year-old slugger has been an electrifying player and the subject of polarizing headlines all summer. Since he was called up to the majors earlier this season, he has brought excitement to a Nationals team that, before this season, appeared to be on life support.
Thanks in large part to Harper’s big bat and stimulating personality, Washington has risen from the dead, and now leads a crowded NL East with a record of 46-32.
Harper has jacked eight home runs so far and knocked in 23 RBIs (via Baseball-Reference.com). Of his eight stolen bases in 2012, none is more infamous than the time he stole home against Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels after receiving his “Welcome to the Big Leagues.”
While Harper has done a lot for both the Nationals program and baseball fans in general as a rookie, it still may be too soon to crown him as one of the kings of the National League. He will compete with three other candidates for the NL Final Vote, all of which are more deserving of the selection than he is.
Michael Bourn, OF, Atlanta Braves
Harper’s division rival, Braves centerfielder Michael Bourn, may be his stiffest competition. Bourn has been a solid hitter for his Atlanta squad all season. Per Baseball-Reference.com, He has posted career highs in batting average (.305) as well as slugging percentage (.444).
Last year, Bourn was traded midseason from the Houston Astros to the Braves, which may have overshadowed his career high 193-hit performance. With 103 hits so far in 2012, Bourn is on pace to break his own personal record set only a year ago.
Bourn was selected to the All-Star Game in 2010, a season in which he accumulated 52 stolen bases for the Astros. His 2012 stolen base total (23) is nearly three times greater than Harper’s.
Bourn is also an excellent fielder. He won back-to-back Gold Glove awards in 2009 and 2010. Despite having fewer home runs than Harper (7), Bourn has only committed two errors in his 80 appearances. Compare that to Harper’s five errors in only 58 games.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
Much like Bourn, Arizona second baseman Aaron Hill was traded in the middle of the 2011 season from the Toronto Blue Jays to the Diamondbacks. Once settling in the Southwest, Hill’s numbers spiked in every major statistical batting category.
Now in his first full season with the Diamondbacks, Hill has been an offensive force, maintaining a .301 batting average while posting a career high slugging percentage (.514). In 2012, Hill looks to replicate his stellar 2009 season when he received significant MVP attention in addition to being named AL All-Star and Silver Slugger (via Baseball-Reference.com).
Hill may be a more complete hitter than the Nationals’ rookie. Hill’s 38 RBIs are 15 more than Harper’s 23, and his 46 strikeouts are four less than Harper’s 50, despite having 64 more at bats in 2012.
It’s possible that Hill’s 2012 performance combined with his eight years of experience in the league have earned him a more dangerous reputation as a hitter. Hill has already been intentionally walked five times this season while Harper has yet to be given that honor.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals
Cardinals third baseman David Freese is the Final Vote finalist that is most statistically equivalent to Harper. Like Harper, he is a young talent that has yet to receive an award for his play in Major League Baseball. Yet, that could change for Freese on Thursday afternoon when they announce the winner of the Final Vote.
Now in his fourth year in the league, Freese looks to complete his first full season with the Cardinals. Considering he only played in 97 games last season, Freese posted impressive totals for both hits (99) and RBIs (55). However, through only 74 games this season, the Cardinals youngster is already closing in on his 2011 totals (via Baseball-Reference.com).
While Freese may not provide the same spark that Harper brings to the table, as far as game changing plays, he is a consistent young player that is clearly on the upswing.
If Freese finishes ahead of Harper in the Final Vote, it will be due to his 48 RBIs and double-digit home runs.
You can take part in the Final Vote on MLB.com. The winner will be announced on Thursday, July 5 at 4:00 p.m. ET.