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A look back at the Nationals’ promotion of Bryce Harper

Dec 30, 2012, 4:46 PM EDT

harper wide getty Getty Images

Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post has pieced together a nice retrospective on the Nationals’ late-April decision to promote Bryce Harper — the process and thinking that went into it, and quotes from Nats general manager Mike Rizzo about how it all played out. It’s worth the long read on a weekend without very much baseball news. Here’s a snippet:

On April 25, as the team he assembled prepared to play across the country in San Diego, Washington Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo milled around a batting cage in Rochester, N.Y. He had flown from Washington the previous day with an intention he shared with few others, one of the organization’s most crucial tasks in 2012.

As the Syracuse Chiefs took batting practice, Bryce Harper spotted Rizzo and shook his hand.

“You’re here to bring me to the big leagues,” Harper said to Rizzo. “Aren’t you?”

Harper wound up batting .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs and 18 steals in 139 games for Washington. The 20-year-old was named a National League All-Star in July and won Rookie of the Year honors in November.

  1. dondada10 - Dec 30, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Damn I miss baseball.

  2. chris728 - Dec 30, 2012 at 6:22 PM

    This will be his best year ever. He may have years that are slightly better in one category or another. If you believe Bryce to be a 30 hr/130 rbi/.300 ave/ less than 100 strikeout guy…you should loo elsewhere. Overall, marginal improvement will be seen from this point forward.

    • Kevin Gillman - Dec 30, 2012 at 6:39 PM

      Why do you think that? Let me ask you this question, how many 19-20 year olds can even make the adjustments needed, like he did this season? No reason to NOT think he can’t put up better numbers all the way around, and I am not a Nats fan, but coming from an outside perspective on this.

      • Jackson - Dec 30, 2012 at 6:58 PM

        Not to be a pessimist but I can see a big sophomore slump in his near future and a lot of Nationals fans claiming he was brought up too fast.

      • Kevin Gillman - Dec 30, 2012 at 7:05 PM

        Jackson, you might be right, because 9 times out of 10, Sophmore Slumps happen. But to say he won’t be much of a better hitter than what he showed this season is pushing it a bit. Regardless, Bryce has showed his maturity, and respect of the game just by his play, in really what was a tough situation for him to be in, namely the Number one pick in all of MLB two years ago, and has found a way to be productive at the age of 19 is remarkable. So, let’s wait and see what he does first from here on out. He is very good for the game though.

      • paperlions - Dec 30, 2012 at 8:36 PM

        How common are “sophomore slumps”? How often do truly good players have good rookie years and then a sophomore slump, only to recover and be good or better? Because if a guy only has a good rookie season and then is never good again, it wasn’t a slump, but the league adjusting to his limited skill set.

        Out of curiosity, I looked for sophomore slumps among players with at least 3000 PAs (so that players pretty much had to be good enough to be a regular for 5 seasons). Of the top 25 players (according to fWAR), only Beltran had a noticeable sophomore slump. Of the 25 players with the lowest WAR, only Jorge Cantu, Neifi Perez, Carl Everett, and Jonny Gomes had a noticeable sophomore slump. Nearly all of the top players had a huge jump in performance…and nearly all of the worst players had similar years the next year.

        The Sophomore slump appears to be another basless post hoc narrative, in which those that “slump” really just had a a rookie season that didn’t represent their true talent.

      • dcfan4life - Dec 30, 2012 at 11:54 PM

        You know, many solid rookies have softmore slumps, this is true. But look at the ROY classes recently.

        http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/awards/mlb_awards_content.jsp?content=roy_history

        It is so hard to become ROY that only really good players have been able to do so and most stay not only good, but MVP quality. A high number of MVPs were ROY the last 10 years. Not saying Harper will be an MVP even though he could, but i dont predict a massive dropoff unless its injury related. I see improvement, especially since he is on a good team with strong bats to protect him.

    • albertmn - Dec 30, 2012 at 7:09 PM

      Really? You pull out 130 RBI as what he needs to hit to be a success? There have only been four total guys to have that many RBI in the NL in the last five seasons, and none in the last three. Why didn’t you pick 45 HR as your HR threshold while you are at it? He can be a very good player, even an All-Star or future HOF player, without ever knocking in 130 runs.

    • jwbiii - Dec 30, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      chris728, A list of MLB players whose careers peaked at age 19 and a discussion of why he is similar to them would add weight to your argument.

  3. cadillacjosh - Dec 30, 2012 at 9:06 PM

    Paperlions-

    Braun had a “slump” for his second year. it was still awesome, but his rookie campaign was so good, we thought he’d hit 40 hr’s and a .340 BA

  4. timb12 - Dec 31, 2012 at 12:38 AM

    Did Rizzo tell him “that’s a clown question bro” ?

  5. sfm073 - Dec 31, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    The problem paperlions is how many of those guys were called up at 19 and how many of them were elite talents at the age of 12? I don’t see him slumping but I could easily see him putting up similar numbers for another year or two and then really breaking out at 22.

  6. fanofevilempire - Jan 1, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    and this is how the legend of the next Babe Ruth was born………………

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