If you polled baseball scouts and executives before the 2012 season and told them that Bryce Harper would get more than 500 at-bats this season, he would have been the overwhelming favorite to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award.
It hasn't turned out to be so clear cut, and he might not win it after a severe slump in July and August. But that's not to say Harper hasn't had a memorable season. At age 19, he hit his 21st home run Thursday in the first inning of a game in Philadelphia. Only Tony Conigliaro has hit more as a teenager in baseball history.
Harper pushed his OPS to .799 after that at-bat. His slugging percentage was .466. His on-base percentage was .333, and his batting average was up to .263. Even a player as electric as Ken Griffey Jr. had numbers that paled in comparison at 19. Harper has 17 steals in 23 attempts, so he has an outside shot of joining the 20-20 club down the stretch. He also had 23 doubles and nine triples entering Thursday's game, though his play in center field has been up and down throughout the year. His range is excellent. His ability to take proper routes to the balls hit his way sometimes isn't.
But Harper is also up against some tough competition. Cincinnati's Todd Frazier has 19 homers and an .845 OPS. Milwaukee's Norichika Aoki, a speedy outfielder, is a fine defensive player and has a .790 OPS with 28 steals in 35 attempts. Colorado's Wilin Rosario has hit 27 homers in just 375 at-bats but leads major league catchers in errors and passed balls. Arizona lefty Wade Miley could be a decent choice as a pitcher with a 3.32 ERA in 31 games.
- Brian McNally