Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is one of the brightest talents in MLB, but it's still too early to put him in the same discussion as the greatest players ever—a point that Barry Bonds will be all too happy to remind you, per William Ladson of MLB.com:
He is a beast. [But] he doesn't compare to me yet. He has a long way to go [to be compared] to me. He is not even close to me. But he is one hell of a ballplayer. I watch him, I admire and I look at him, and I’m in awe. You don’t see that often.
Harper later responded to Bonds' comments, via James Wagner of the Washington Post:
Looking at how they performed through their first four years, the two are relatively similar:
|Bryce Harper vs. Barry Bonds—First Four Years|
In his fifth year, Bonds earned the first of three MVP awards over a four-season stretch. Harper won his first MVP last year, but sustaining that greatness will be his next challenge.
Of course, Bonds' best work came well into his 30s. He was in his age-36 season when he broke the single-season home run record.
Comparing any player to Bonds—especially one as young as Harper—is unfair. The home run king, who was linked to performance-enhancing drugs during the latter stages of his playing career, may be the greatest offensive player in baseball history.
As long as he keeps up his current pace, Harper will have a Hall of Fame-caliber career. Baseball-Reference.com gives him a similarity score comparable to Hank Aaron, Orlando Cepeda, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Robinson and Miguel Cabrera, among a few others, through age 22.
Expecting the reigning National League MVP to reach Bonds' level may be a bit unrealistic, though.