Oct 7, 2013, 6:00 AM EDT
Age on Opening Day 2014: 21
How acquired: 1st round pick, 2010 draft
MLB service time: 1 year, 159 days
2013 salary+bonuses: $2 million
Contract status: Signed for $2.15 million in 2014, $2.25 million in 2015, arbitration-eligible in 2016, free agent in 2019
2013 Stats: 118 G, 497 PA, 71 R, 116 H, 24 2B, 3 3B, 20 HR, 58 RBI, 11 SB, 61 BB, 94 SO, .274 AVG, .368 OBP, .486 SLG, .854 OPS, 6 E, 2.6 UZR, 3.8 WAR
Quotable: “I don’t think it was a very good year for me. I think I did terrible.” — Bryce Harper
2013 analysis: Harper may describe his season as “terrible,” but that’s really not a fair assessment. He posted a higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in 2013 than he did as a rookie in 2012, and both his home run and walk rates went up while his strikeout rate went down. Oh, and he finished with the 12th-highest OPS ever by a major-league player 20 or younger.
That said, Harper has every right to be disappointed with his overall performance, because it was directly influenced by one ill-fated play on May 13 in which he ran into the wall at Dodger Stadium, cut up his chin and banged up his left knee. That knee injury (it was later diagnosed as bursitis) plagued Harper the rest of the season. Before the collision, he was hitting .303 with a 1.022 OPS, MVP-caliber numbers. After the collision, he hit .262 with a .789 OPS, slightly-above-average numbers.
Harper did make strides in left field this year, learning when to cut loose with a throw and when to just hit the cut-off man. He also made strides against left-handed pitching; his .214 batting average remains weak, but his .327 on-base percentage showed he became more patient against southpaws and didn’t chase as many pitches as he did as an over-aggressive rookie.
2014 outlook: Harper sets the bar exceedingly high for himself, and we all set the bar for him just as high. Perhaps an MVP-caliber season at 20 was too much to ask, but it won’t stop Harper (or us) from setting that goal again next year at 21.
For Harper to take that all-important next step in his development and truly become one of the best players in baseball, he needs to continue to improve against left-handed pitching. And he needs to keep himself on the field as close to 100 percent healthy as possible. Obviously, there’s only so much he can do to prevent injury. But Harper admitted by the end of this season he needs to play under more control and also understand when he needs a day or two off to let a nagging injury heal and not devolve into something worse.
If Harper can make those adjustments — and who are we to doubt his talent or desire? — there’s really no reason he can’t put together an MVP-worthy season in 2014.
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