Bryce Harper will play in the MLB Futures game on July 10, 2011
For the Washington Nationals, the prodigal son has emerged.
The Nationals drafted Bryce Harper just over a year ago. He went through fall ball, then the offseason and spring training, and in his first season in the Nationals organization he has graduated from Single-A to Double-A before the All-Star break.
He is not exactly wallowing in the mire, but the 18-year-old is still roaming in the minors.
The Nationals organization and their fans will keep a keen eye on Harper and see how he progresses while in Harrisburg playing Double-A for the Senators during the second half of the season.
In his brief stint in Hagerstown in Single-A, he succeeded with ease, batting .318 with 14 home runs, 46 RBI and 19 stolen bases.
Hopes are so high for Harper, the golden child. But, like in life, not all of our days can be grounded in hope and expectancy. There must also be a realistic expectancy of reality and how harsh it can be.
Let’s look at seven bold predictions for the phenom’s MLB career.
Bryce Harper at bat at the MLB Futures game on July 10, 2011
Slaughter the fattened calf!
Bryce is everything we've dreamed of and more.
Harper blows away the competition and hits 35 home runs, bats .310 and starts 130 games in his rookie campaign.
If so, here's looking at you, kid.
Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa is having a stellar rookie year. At the All-Star break Espinoza is hitting .245 and has 16 home runs (a major league record for home runs before the All-Star break for all rookies, ever).
PS: Espinoza did not make the National League All-Star team.
Bryce Harper at MLB Futures Game July 10, 2011
All around the DC metro area, in the Nationals ballpark and, I safely assume, in the Nationals organization, this is a thought that is not spoken aloud.
If Bryce Harper never makes it a year or more in a Nationals uniform donning the curly "W" hat, roaming left field and smashing homers to the Miller Lite Scoreboard Walk it will be an utter disappointment, and the Nationals organization will be in soaring disarray.
The sky is the limit for Bryce Harper. But, to whom much is given, much is required.
Think about yourself as an 18- to 20-year-old man-child in Harper's shoes.
He has been given so much and has the potential to achieve and succeed in so many ways, but unfortunately for Bryce, the pressure is on.
Let us wait expectantly and hope he does indeed make it to Major League Baseball, proudly wearing and leading in a curly "W" hat and Nats uniform.
I hope the Nationals fanbase is patient, though, and shows the kid grace if/when he does stumble (see here for more on Nationals fans).
Alfonso Soriano now with the Chicago Cubs
The last player to hit 40 home runs and have 40 steals in a season was Alfonso Soriano in 2006. For what team, you may ask? The Washington Nationals.
Harper will have the ability to slug 40 home runs, but will his baserunning and speed be enough to reach 40 stolen bases in a season?
He has good baseball instincts, is aggressive and has Pete Rose-like hustle—let’s see if he can put it all together in one season.
Rick Ankiel in 2008 while still with the St. Louis Cardinals
There is a chance that Harper simply won’t be able to live up to his soaring expectations.
The Nationals already had once-prized talent that never panned out. Not to the shame of Rick Ankiel, because he has certainly made a great comeback career for himself, but there was a time when he was expected to be competing for the Cy Young award down the road.
Eventually, Ankiel became better at peppering back screens and scaring fans than striking out batters, and now he's a reserve outfielder roaming from team to team.
All eyes are on Bryce. Can he live up to the hype?
Harper talking with ESPN's Peter Gammons at the MLB Futures Game on July 10, 2011
Harper has always been ahead of the game. He left high school and got his GED to go to junior college early. He left college early in 2010 after being drafted and signed by the Nationals.
He is 18 years old—just a few months shy of 19.
Mel Ott was the quickest player to ever hit 200 home runs. At 25 years and 144 days he hit his 200th home run. Ott played in a different time, but Harper has started early enough that, if he comes out hot and steady, he could do it.
Let’s play with a scenario.
Say Harper starts in left field for the Nationals in 2013; he would have to hit 33 home runs each of the next six seasons (198) plus an extra two…Possible? Let’s wait and see.
Bryce Harper looking on at the MLB Futures Game
It ain't easy being green.
Bryce Harper’s record five-year contract for $9.9 million was the highest out of the draft for any non-pitcher who had not already become a free agent. But, will the money hold up?
If Harper succeeds like the Nationals and fans want him to, in 3-5 years will the Nationals organization fork out the money to pay him, or will free agency sweep Bryce away from DC?
While the Nationals have set the groundwork recently for acquiring and growing talent, will they be able to put up even bigger bucks when names like Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are the equivalent to Alex Rodriguez and Roy Halladay?
Bryce Harper running out a ground ball at MLB Futures Game 2011
Two years ago, had someone mentioned the words "Washington Nationals" and "World Series" in the same sentence I likely would have laughed out loud.
There is a sense of hope and a positive aura around the Nationals.
They are playing .500 ball at 46-46 going into the 2011 All-Star break, which is a great step in a positive and winning direction.
Even though the Nationals are eight games back in the NL wild-card race, the reality is that a playoff run is not too far away from the Nationals future.
Once the club and fans taste the playoffs, the next two words are "World Series."
There is still time, and with it, we will see the likes of Bryce Harper roaming the outfield for the Nationals, along with many more wins and, hopefully, playing into the fall.
Harper did get called up just a week ago to Double-A ball in Harrisburg to play for the Senators. One step closer to a bright future.