Cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16? Check. Analysts constantly comparing him to former legends of the game? Check. First overall pick in the draft? Check.
Bryce Harper had all of the ingredients of an overhyped prospect. The pressure was on to live up to the hype, and anything short of greatness was going to be considered a failure. Unfortunately for Harper, arguably the greatest player of all time entered the league the same year he did back in 2012.
Bryce Harper vs Mike Trout
Mike Trout and Bryce Harper both won the Rookie of the Year Awards in their respective leagues that season. However, Trout had one of the best seasons ever recorded by a rookie. He hit .326 with an insane .399 OBP while blasting 30 home runs and stealing a league-leading 49 bases.
Harper had a quality rookie campaign. He hit a respectable .274 with 20 bombs. But that was overshadowed by the ridiculous numbers that Trout produced.
Unfortunately for Bryce, this is how the next 8 seasons would go. He was constantly compared to Trout and people began to favor Trout over Harper. Bryce had an attitude and was an intense player, while Trout came with a humble demeanor and went about his business in a quiet manner all while crushing baseballs all over the yard and making legendary catchers in centerfield.
Trout posted historic numbers over the past 8 seasons, while Harper simply put up good numbers. The comparison is unlucky for Harper but was bound to happen given that they broke onto the scene at the same time.
Harper was never able to lead the Washington Nations to a championship before leaving in free agency before the 2019 season. And then, as soon as he left, the Nationals went on to win the World Series.
Since joining the Phillies, people have begun to dismiss Harper. With young and exciting players taking over the league such as Fernando Tatis JR and Shohei Ohtani, Harper has become somewhat of an afterthought. But is Bryce actually still really good?
Well, home runs certainly aren’t the issue. He hit 35 in 2019, 13 in the shortened 2020 campaign, and has hit 33 so far in 2021. But Harper is showing that he is more than just a home run guy as he is quietly posting MVP numbers this season.
Harper is slashing .314/.428/.627 as of this article’s publication date. He also has a league-leading 1.055 OPS. If those numbers are confusing, let me break it down for you. Harper is getting on base at an elite pace, he is getting base hits extremely often, and is hitting for power at a superstar level.
And yet, people aren’t really taking notice of what he is doing.
Yes, Shohei Ohtani is doing things that nobody has done since Babe Ruth, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr is making a bid for a Triple Crown. But Harper is dominating in 2021 and has his Philadelphia Phillies just three games back in the National League East.
Bryce Harper has officially gone from one of the most overhyped young prospects in the game to arguably the most underrated player in baseball. But that might change if he takes home the National League MVP honors once this season comes to an end.