Washington Nationals: 5 Bold Predictions for Bryce Harper's Sophomore Season
It's never too early to start making predictions for the 2013 MLB season, and where better to start than with arguably the most publicized player in the majors.
In 533 at-bats, Harper compiled a line of .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, nine triples and 18 stolen bases.
He's in line to likely win the National League Rookie of the Year, and will likely be expected to produce better numbers in his sophomore season.
The following predictions may be bold, but they aren't all that unrealistic.
Harper Will Hit 35-Plus Home Runs
Harper mashed 22 home runs last season, though many of them came during the second half.
Once he began adjusting to major league pitching, balls began to fly out of the yard.
I thoroughly expect Harper to start crushing home runs right from the onset in 2013. His power potential is clearly there, and he has the perfect semi-uppercut swing to hit pitches a long way.
A 13-home run jump from one season to the next is a pretty big leap, but a player going into his second season in the league can easily accomplish the feat. Especially if he has as much power as Harper.
Who knows? Maybe us fans will be lucky enough to see Harper compete in the Home Run Derby at the All-Star break festivities.
He'll Drive in 100-Plus Runs
The offseason may still be just beginning, but Jayson Werth seems to be the guy entrenched at the leadoff spot for the Nationals next season.
Werth thrived in the leadoff spot last season, and his presence there correlated with the hot streak of Harper.
With Werth getting on base quite often (he compiled a .387 on-base percentage last season), Harper will have plenty of opportunities to knock in some runs.
Throw in the fact that the bottom of the lineup for Washington turned it on late last season, and there will be plenty of situations where Harper comes up with men on base.
He could also make his way to the middle of the lineup if he hits home runs at the pace I predict.
All these things together make him a legitimate candidate to knock in over 100 runs.
He'll Swipe More Than 25 Bases
It's always hard to predict how many stolen bases a player like Harper will record, because he gets so many extra base hits.
Harper does have very good speed though, so look for him to take off when he has the opportunity to in 2013.
Harper's versatility as an athlete gives manager Davey Johnson many options on offense. If he runs, there's a strong chance that he gets himself into scoring position for either Ryan Zimmerman or any other player hitting behind him.
After playing a season in the bigs and getting caught stealing six times, Harper has now learned how to get a good jump. Reading pickoff moves will also be a lot easier for him.
Harper has an outside chance at joining the 30-30 club in 2013, but it's safer to bet on him stealing 25 bags.
He'll Win the National League MVP Award
You may think this is the boldest prediction of the slideshow but, oh wait, there's more coming.
For now, let's stick to NL MVP talk.
By all accounts Buster Posey deserves the NL MVP for the 2012 season. His exploits and production at the plate where one of the biggest reasons why the San Francisco Giants are world champions.
With that being said, Posey again becomes the favorite for the 2013 season.
Harper's statistics will be so overwhelming next season though, that the voters will have no choice but to vote for him.
With 35-plus home runs, 100-plus RBI, 25-plus steals and potentially a line of .280/.360/.510, Harper's numbers would be among the best in the league.
Throw in the fact that the Nationals are likely a playoff team again in 2013, and Harper has a real shot at winning arguably the most prestigious award in baseball.
He'll Win the World Series MVP
Am I being bold enough for you now?
Harper getting the World Series MVP of course hinges on his Washington teammates playing with the same intensity that they did this past season. The Nationals are very talented in all facets of the game, so I really don't have any doubts that they'll go far in the 2013 postseason.
Oh yeah, and the man with the magic right arm—Stephen Strasburg—likely won't be shutdown with the playoffs looming next season. This alone gives the Nationals a very good chance.
If Harper can put up the numbers I expect him to next season, he'll be one of the most feared hitters in the playoffs.
Intimidated pitchers often make mistakes, and Harper will look to crush those mistakes with his team's fate on the line.
If the series goes past five games, Harper should have at least three home runs.
The more bold prediction here may be that the Nationals are crowned World Series champs, but predicting a monster season from Harper is quite bold in itself.
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