Bryce Harper arrived in Viera this weekend to report to his first Nationals Spring Training. At 18, to call him an elite prospect would be an understatement, he is quite simply the most hyped teenager since Ken Griffey Jr.
The Nats are going to be patient with him, however, and make sure that they do not rush him to Washington. That being said, there is a very good chance he could see some significant time in the majors next year at the age of 19. According to Baseball Reference, only 17 position players have ever played 100 or more games in a season as a teenager (Yount and Cavarretta did it twice). From the looks of their performances, only a select few have ever been able to produce in the situation Harper may find himself in next year.Here are the best seasons by a teenage position player in the MLB ranked by OPS+:
- Mel Ott, 1928: 124 GP, 18 HR, 77 RBI, .322/.397/.524, 139 OPS+
- Tony Conigliaro, 1964: 111 GP, 24 HR, 52 RBI, .290/.354/.530, 137 OPS+
- Johnny Lush, 1904: 106 GP, 2 HR, 42 RBI, .276/.336/.369 , 118 OPS+
- Ken Griffey Jr, 1989: 108 GP, 16 HR, 61 RBI, .264/.329/.420, 108 OPS +
- Edgar Renteria, 1996: 106 GP, 5 HR, 31 RBI, .309/.358/.399, 103 OPS+
- Ed Kranepool, 1964: 119 GP, 10 HR, 45 RBI, .257/310/.393, 100 OPS+
- Freddie Lindstrom, 1925; 104 GP, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .287/.332/.404, 96 OPS+
- Phil Cavarretta, 1935; 146 GP, 8 HR, 82 RBI, .275/.322/.404, 93 OPS+
- Robin Yount, 1975; 147 GP, 8 HR, 52 RBI, .267/.307/.367, 90 OPS+
- Buddy Lewis, 1936; 143 GP, 6 HR, 67 RBI, .291/.347/.399, 88 OPS+
He will face challenges however. While he did hit against division one pitching last season, pitchers in the upper minor leagues and in the majors will not make the same mistakes college pitchers did. He will have to learn to hit what is given to him, and not wait to see a mistake in hsi bread basket. He will also, likely for the first time, have to learn to hit against pitchers who have game planned against him. Pitchers will find holes in his swing, try to take advantage of his youth, and look to exploit his aggressivness.
Even so, Harper has a good chance to rank highly on this list before the next two years are up. Mel Ott's 1928 season may be hard to top, but if anyone can do it, it's Bryce Harper.
I would disagree that Harper has faced " top[-]level pitchers" as the CSN is still only junior-college, but doing it as a 17-y.o. is unheard of this side of Tony C., who put up those numbers in much, much lower run-scoring environment than Mel Ott (almost diametric opposites, historically).
The biggest argument for putting Harper at Hagerstown is so he can see better breaking stuff while still getting enough mistake fastballs to keep up his confidence. My personal feeling is that he'd be better suited at High-A, where he'll still get his fair share of fastballs, but more exposure to what he needs to work on ASAP: quality breaking & offspeed pitches.
@nats_prospects I should have been more clear, what I meant was he was facing better pitchers than other 17-year-olds. CSN is a Junior College but it plays at a high level, and there are good ball players in Junior College. You're right it's not the same as if he were playing against the best division one schools in the country, but, he was hitting against pitchers four or five years older than him.
I agree those are clearly the points he needs to work on. It should be interesting to see how he adapts and learns the art of hitting vs. overpowering less talented pitchers.