Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was the first player taken in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft. He raced through the minor leagues and made his Major League debut on April 28th of 2012 at the age of 19. He has made headlines with his lofty numbers (including the best season ever for a 19 year old and his passionate style of play. His WAR (Wins Above Replacement ) is 5.8 in the first half of the 2015 season. His own baseball percentage so far this year is 0.466 according to baseball-reference.com. He is only 22 years old and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2017. He should see a huge payday at age 24, assuming that he stays healthy.
He was the top vote getter among National League position players in the fan vote for the All-Star game beating out three time World Series champion catcher Buster Posey and probably headed for the Hall of Fame shortstop Troy Tulowitzski. It isn’t just his play that is being rewarded. It is the entertainment value he brings to the game. It is the way he works the count, the circus catches in the outfield, the passion he has when thrown out on a routine ground ball.
Bryce Harper is the complete package and not just in terms of baseball. Bryce Harper is marketable. He is charismatic and attractive and good enough that he can, when it suits him, ignore the unwritten rules of baseball. In this manner, he is very much like another outfielder, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig.
Baseball is no longer the dominant US sport that it once was. Football is now America’s Pastime. There are many factors for this, including the fact that the minor league system needs a major overhaul to draw the best athletes to a career in baseball, but baseball also needs to sell personalities. It needs players, good players, that it can be put on billboards and Coke cans and t-shirts. It is unfair to put the future of an entire sport in the hands of one player but I believe that Bryce Harper, along with the next group of great players currently in the minors, can sell this sport. A sport needs to grow and expand in order to be viable. Harper has the skill set, on the playing field and off, to keep the sport I love viable. Baseball’s future is so bright, I might need to borrow some of Harper’s eyeblack.
Image (C) Richard Martin under CC 2.0 via flickr.