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Bryce Harper's Hot Start Shouldn't Draw Unrealistic MVP Expectations from Fans

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 01:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals waves to the crowd after hitting a solo home run against the Miami Marlins during the fourth inning of their opening day game at Nationals Park on April 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

Bryce Harper certainly started the 2013 season off with a bang, mashing two home runs in his first two at-bats against the Miami Marlins on Monday. Still, fans should probably hold off on crowning him the National League MVP for the time being. 

There's no question that Harper comes into this season with huge expectations, and his first two at-bats showed why. The question is, are those expectations too lofty?

On one hand, Harper was excellent in his rookie season (at the age of 19, mind you), hitting .270 with 22 home runs, 59 RBI, 98 runs scored and 18 stolen bases in just 139 games. His talent is immense, and he's only going to get better each season.

He has also already carved aside a bit of history for himself this year, via ESPN Stats & Info:

Harper is being expected to be an MVP candidate this season by some folks out there—after Mike Trout should have won the AL MVP last season at the age of 20, I suppose I understand the line of thinking. However, I just don't think he'll post those type of numbers. 

Not yet, at least. 

According to Baseball-Reference, only six players in MLB history have ever hit 30 or more home runs in their age-20 seasons: Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, Alex Rodriguez, Tony Conigliaro, Ted Williams and Mike Trout.

Meanwhile, only five players have finished with 100 or more RBI in their age-20 seasons: Ott, Williams, Rodriguez, Ty Cobb and Al Kaline.

Now, you could argue that Harper may not have to reach either plateau to win the MVP.

He could hit .310 with 25 home runs, 90 RBI, 110 runs scored and 30 stolen bases and feasibly take home the honor, though in a league with studs like Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp, Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey (among others), he'll probably need to post better numbers than those to win the award.

If you think I'm overreacting or making up this notion that people out there are considering Harper as an MVP candidate, consider that Harper has an average draft position of 30.0 in ESPN leagues, meaning he's going in the third round of drafts.

At the age of 20.

Ahead of proven veterans like Adrian Gonzalez, Adam Jones and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Or how about the fact that Bovada has Harper's odds to win the MVP at 10-to-1, behind only Joey Votto and Braun?

Harper is going to be excellent this season, but keeping realistic expectations for Harper is very important, especially for Washington Nationals fans. The odds of him replicating Trout's epic season from 2012 are low, and he's still a year or two away from being an MVP candidate.

I could be wrong, of course. But history suggests I'm probably right. The youngest MVP in history was Vida Blue, who turned 22 in his MVP-winning season.

I fully expect Harper to have an excellent season; I just don't expect him to have an epic one. Not yet.

He's going to win MVP awards and dominate baseball at some point, sure, but he'll be of the legal drinking age before he does it.

 

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