With his 19th homer on Saturday in Atlanta Bryce Harper passed Mel Ott for second on the list of most homers by a player in their age 19 season. Bryce Harper is also 3rd in SLG, OPS, and total bases for a player in their age 19 season. Harper has been nothing short of amazing and is having a historic season. If you look at the names alongside Harper in these categories there is Ott’s age 19 season in 1928 and Tony Conigliaro in 1964. From this it can be concluded that what Harper is doing is a once in a generation event, but should it even be a factor in the NL rookie of the year voting.
Harper’s season might be historic for a 19 year old but it can be argued that it is just a typical good rookie season. Mike Trout is having a historic season for a rookie in the AL while Harper’s season is just about what should be expected from a rookie of the year candidate. As far as position players go Harper has a commanding lead in fWAR over Todd Fraizer with a 4.0 fWAR for Harper and a 2.8 fWAR for Fraizer. That is mostly due to Harper’s elite fielding in centerfield compared to Fraizer’s below average defense at a less premier position. When it comes to strictly offense Fraizer has an advantage with an .862 OPS compared to .793 for Harper.
None of this takes into account the impact that Harper’s aggressiveness and hustle on the bases has had on games. Harper has stolen home and scored on grounders back to the pitcher. Harper has the ability to not only take over a game from the batters box, but also on the bases. Even if Harper is in a slump at the plate he can make a difference when he gets on base or if he still can’t do that he can do so with the glove. Fraizer is a good player, but he is much more one dimensional.
Harper and Fraizer aren’t the only contenders. Wade Miley has had a very good season. Not only for a rookie, but his 4.4 fWAR has him in the top five for pitchers in the NL. This means that an argument may exist that Miley shouldn’t just be considered for the ROY, but perhaps for the Cy Young as well. As well as Harper and Fraizer have played no argument exists that either could be a MVP.
Pitchers are at a disadvantage for awards. Harper has a chance to have an impact on a game every day while Miley has to wait his turn, and while it is true that starting pitchers have a bigger impact on the outcome of an individual game than any other player it is still only 35 games. Harper has made a direct impact on many games and has more than a few highlight reel moments.
Then there is the fact that he is 19. It cannot be forgotten. It is one of the defining characteristic of Harper. He isn’t the average rookie playing at a high level at the highest level. Harper is a teenager. There are players in single A who are considered top prospects at Harper’s age. There are players that are 19 that will be taken in the first round in next June’s draft. It is rare for a player to play at the MLB level at 19 and it is even more rare for that teenage player to play at high enough level to even be one of the top three finalist for the rookie of the year award.
Even if Harper should be judged solely on his performance and it should be forgotten that he is 19 it cannot be. It is part of who he is and what makes him special. This is a player who was on the cover of SI at 16 and skipped his final year of High School to be drafted number one overall at the age of 17. Harper is a special player and part of what makes him special is his age. The argument exists without the age factor for Harper to win the NL ROY, but when it is factored in that Harper is only 19 it turns a very good rookie season into a historic one, and that is deserving of an award.