Washington Nationals rookie Bryce Harper was thrust into the National League Rookie of the Year discussion immediately upon his call-up back in the beginning of this season. Very soon after, those talks began to fade as he struggled to adjust to the major league style of play.
Now, as the season enters its final week, Harper is back. He's back to mashing monstrous home runs and back to frequently scoring runs, putting him in a great position to reclaim his position as the NL's best rookie this season.
September has been very kind to the 19-year-old phenom. In 25 games this month (entering play on September 28), Harper has produced a line of .305/.377/.611 with six home runs, 13 RBI, three triples, four stolen bases and 29 total hits.
Harper entered September struggling, but now appears to be entering the postseason on fire. This is absolutely perfect timing for him and the Nationals, as an impact bat such as his is invaluable in possible elimination scenarios.
On the season, Harper is now hitting .264/.334/.465 with 21 home runs, 58 RBI, 94 runs scored, nine triples and 17 steals. While none of those numbers really jump out at you—except maybe the nine triples and 94 runs scored—Harper has been solid overall in his first season in the bigs.
When you compare his line to the other contending rookies in the National League, you will find striking similarities.
Todd Frazier of the Cincinnati Reds has mashed 19 home runs and driven in 65 runs, but his impact on the bases—just four steals—and the overall offense—just 55 runs scored—falls in comparison to Harper.
Who wins the NL vote?
Wilin Rosario of the Colorado Rockies is literally in the same position as Frazier. Rosario has mashed 30 home runs and driven in 78, but his four steals and 72 runs scored still fall short. Add the fact that Rosario is a catcher and doesn't play every day, and he's at a glaring disadvantage.
Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks probably poses the biggest threat to Harper. Since it's hard to compare a pitcher's impact to that of a hitter's, I'll simply throw some numbers out there for everyone.
On the season, Miley is 16-11 in 28 starts (187 innings pitched) with a 3.32 ERA and 134 strikeouts. His WHIP of 1.20 is very respectable, as is his .257 opponents' batting average.
Miley and Rosario are both without spots in the playoffs this season, so the postseason could be the difference-maker in the Frazier versus Harper debate.
I believe Harper deserves the award already, but a strong postseason could make his case for the award even more clear.
The award is just for recognition, so Harper's rookie season should not be disregarded if he doesn't win the vote. Even so, it's a nice prize to start the big collection that he'll likely possess by the time he retires.