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Expert support: 40 percent (six votes).
Others receiving votes: Joey Votto (two), Ryan Braun (one), Jay Bruce (one), Jason Heyward (one), Matt Kemp (one), Andrew McCutchen (one), Yadier Molina (one) and Justin Upton (one).
B/R prospect guru Mike Rosenbaum is convinced that Harper can approach his limitless ceiling as a sophomore:
Since reaching the major leagues early last season, Harper has continued to improve in all facets of the game. His ability to make adjustments is unparalleled for a player of his age and lack of experience. ... The 20-year-old has the potential to put up absolutely gaudy offensive numbers.
Zachary D. Rymer agrees that he will go far beyond 22 home runs and 59 runs batted in as the No. 3 hitter for the Washington Nationals:
Harper had the best season ever by a 19-year-old last year, and he ended it with an impressive hot stretch. I'm expecting big improvements across the board this year, including in homers and RBI. The voters will love him.
That late-season hot streak he hints at propelled Harper to the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year award. From Aug. 29 through season's end, the phenom flaunted a .341/.407/.690 batting line.
Robert Knapel expects reigning award winner Buster Posey to excel again, only to be leapfrogged by last season's fourth-place finisher:
It is entirely possible that the NL MVP race in 2013 comes down to two catchers. Yadier Molina has gotten better and better over time, and last season he took his game to the next level. Molina is ready to be an MVP, and this could be the year that he does it.
Joe Giglio observes that Bruce has increased his home run total each season. He led the Cincinnati Reds with 34 round-trippers in his age-25 campaign.
With Opening Day around the corner, Harper is quietly dealing with a jammed thumb, MLB.com's Joey Nowak reports. The outstanding outfielder even removed himself from the lineup in hopes of accelerating the healing process. However, he was back in the Nats' lineup again on Thursday.
The concern, obviously, is that he might not be able to generate the usual torque on his swing while wearing a thumb guard.
Juicy storylines surround his main competition too.
As ESPN.com's Jayson Stark details, Votto was amid a Ruthian season in 2012 before needing a lengthy DL stint to recover from knee surgery. Replicating his .337/.474/.567 batting line over 700 plate appearances would make him the NL MVP front-runner.
Molina's offensive skills garnered little respect through 800 major league games. What a rich narrative it would be if he continued his rapid improvement at age 30.
And Harper has athletic opposition like Braun, Heyward, McCutchen and Upton. Though slightly older, all are former first-round draft picks who excite viewers on so many occasions.