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Roster review: Bryce Harper

Oct 12, 2015, 6:00 AM EDT

USA Today Sports Images

Age on Opening Day 2016: 23

How acquired: 1st round pick, 2010 draft

MLB service time: 3 years, 159 days

2015 salary+bonuses: $2.5 million

Contract status: Signed for $5 million in 2016, arbitration-eligible in 2017, free agent in 2019

2015 stats: 153 G, 654 PA, 118 R, 172 H, 38 2B, 1 3B, 42 HR, 99 RBI, 6 SB, 124 BB, 131 SO, .330 AVG, .460 OBP, .649 SLG, 1.109 OPS, 7 E, -2.4 UZR, 9.9 WAR

Quotable: “He has the world in the palm of his hand. It’s just fun to see him play. And the sky’s the limit. I think he’s got more in him than that.” — Gio Gonzalez on Bryce Harper

2015 analysis: It’s funny now to think about how many questions there were surrounding Bryce Harper at the start of the season. Could he stay healthy over a full year? Could he tone down his reckless playing style? Would he ever live up to the hype?

The answer to all of those questions, of course, was a resounding yes. Harper put together not only a season that lived up to the hype but one that stacks up against just about any season in baseball history. He became only the ninth player ever to hit .330 with at least 42 homers and a .460 on-base percentage, joining an elite group including Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmy Foxx, Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Jason Giambi, Todd Helton and Barry Bonds.

The biggest key to Harper’s success was remarkable patience at the plate. That allowed him not only to draw a club-record 124 walks but also to make the most of whatever pitches he did get a chance to hit. His ability to take a breaking ball on the outside corner from a left-hander — his Achilles’ heel throughout his career — and line base hit after base hit to left field spoke volumes about his maturation as a hitter.

Though he cooled off down the stretch, going 6 for his last 37 to lose the NL batting title to Dee Gordon, Harper still posted numbers that make him the runaway favorite to win MVP honors in November. The only question remaining now is whether he’ll be a unanimous choice.

2016 outlook: Let’s make this clear right up front: This season was no fluke. Harper, provided he keeps himself healthy and on the field, has every reason to believe he can do this again.

Can he be even better? Several teammates believe so, from Gio Gonzalez to Max Scherzer to Jayson Werth, who likes to say that “when he’s 30 years old, he’s going to be a hell of a player.” Harper still will be only 23 when he reports for spring training, so there truly is more for him to learn and perfect.

The biggest question facing Harper now has less to do with his playing ability but with his earning ability. He has three more seasons before becoming eligible for free agency, but the time may be now for the Nationals to start seriously discussing a long-term extension. The more they wait, the higher his price becomes and the harder he is to sign.

It would take an historic contract (likely one that eclipses Giancarlo Stanton’s record 13-year, $325 million deal with Miami) to lock up Harper right now. Given what he did on the field this season, can anyone really doubt he’s worth it?

  1. sjm308 - Oct 12, 2015 at 7:52 AM

    First 400 million dollar player

    • Joe Seamhead - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:03 AM

      Pay the man, Shirley.

      • dhamm6500 - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:06 AM


      • ArVAFan - Oct 12, 2015 at 10:16 AM

        Pay the man. But get an injury policy from Lloyd’s.

    • Candide - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:27 AM

      I think that’s where the bidding STARTS.

  2. natsguy - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:10 AM

    Before you commit make sure he does it again. Otherwise you have another RZIM.

    • nattyboh1 - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:42 AM

      If he does it again the price goes up. Get him locked up now, if you can.

  3. rgsie - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Pay the man but make sure you get a receipt.

  4. JayB - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:31 AM

    Rzim…come one he was never anywhere near the player is right now. Note even close… is going to take a $600 M number to get him to sign anything and it will have opt outs for him not Nats…..and yes…do it.

  5. Joe Seamhead - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:34 AM

    I think almost every Nats fan would like to see Bryce Harper play his entire career here.

    Off topic, but Joe Torre suspended Chase Utley for 2 games and most players interviewed seemed to think that the suspension was more because of Tejada’s injury thean for Utley’s slide. I’m old school, believe that hard slides to the base are part of baseball. Now, that said, I think when a guy goes way off the base to take out a guy who is up in air, it really does become a dirty play. I’m not saying that Chase was trying to hurt Ruben, but I do feel that he crossed the line in the way he took him out. Pablo Sandaval did against the Nats, too, but nobody got hurt and little was said about it. I think that Joe Torre was right to suspend Chase Utley, and because of the timing of it, along with how seriously Tejada got hurt, that play will define, and tarnish, Chase Utley’s legacy in many people’s minds.

    The Simmons slide into Escobar has also come up in some discussions again. I think the only questionable thing about the Simmons slide was how late he started his slide, not that he aimed his cleats at Yunel’s glove. Yunel’s inexperience at 3B played a part in him getting hurt in the way that he attempted to make the tag. Runners have tried to knock the ball out of gloves since the beginning of time. It’s the number one reason why so many balls are dropped in stolen base attempts at second base. [Now,IMHO, aiming for a guy’s legs with cleats up is crossing the line]. Like the Utley/Tejada play, if Escobar hadn’t gotten hurt there would have been little discussion about it.

    Go Cubs!

    • chapjim - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:31 AM

      Might have done Utley a favor. This way he won’t have to spend two games ducking batteries at Citi Field. Coming from Philadelphia, Utley knows all about that.

      • infideljack - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:56 AM


      • Joe Seamhead - Oct 12, 2015 at 12:06 PM

        Good point!

  6. Candide - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:35 AM

    Can he improve? Possibly, but how often do players improve on already-historic seasons? Not many.

    OTOH, how many players have historic seasons at age 22? Even fewer.

    Tough call.

    But pay him anyway. You jacked up my ticket prices 44% next year; if it wasn’t to pay Bryce, I’d like to know what I’m paying for.

    • infideljack - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:57 AM

      Max and Paplebon.

  7. npb99 - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:40 AM

    I’m curious how often top-tier free agents end up re-signing with their own clubs. Based on this snapshot, it was 2 out of 10 last year.

    Who knows what Harper will do? On one hand, he appreciates baseball history and has spoken of how great players are one-team players. So maybe he’ll sign an extension. On the other hand, he is supremely confident and enjoys the limelight, and I can see him relishing a free agent tour and comparing teams – Yankees, Dodgers, etc. And so would Boras.

  8. raleighnat - Oct 12, 2015 at 9:53 AM

    10 years, $350MM. Put it on the table for the offseason. Here’s the deal…the Nats have 1 advantage and that is that they control him for the next three years. He will be arbitration eligible for these years and will be paid handsomely. But the Nats are the only ones who can pay him more than arbitration for these three years. He may not take it but it would be very hard to walk away from $350MM and the financial security that comes with that.

    • veejh - Oct 12, 2015 at 10:28 AM

      I had suggested 6 years for $180M a week or so ago. It gives us 3 more years of control and Harper gets paid handsomely for the next 6.

      • jd - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:45 AM


        Bryce is not quite 23 so when he’s due to hit free agency he’ll only be 25 (almost 26). I don’t think he’l give up the opportunity at free agency for just 3 extra years at $30 mil per when he can easily assume he’ll get a far larger deal when he reaches free agency. Now if you do 10 years at $350 that might be hard to walk away from.

    • infideljack - Oct 12, 2015 at 12:00 PM

      I doubt if anything under $600 would be considered unless it was a 5 year deal.

      • jd - Oct 12, 2015 at 12:17 PM

        Now you are getting crazy.

      • Sonny G 10 - Oct 12, 2015 at 1:05 PM

        I’m sure you meant $600 million. $600 wouldn’t even pay for one AB. If he were making $30 million a year, each AB would be worth $45,872 based on the number of ABs he had this year. 🙂

  9. JayB - Oct 12, 2015 at 10:43 AM

    deal veejh……but will have to be $240 for 6 to buy those prime years…. 40 million a year for his best years is a deal in today’s market

  10. TimDz - Oct 12, 2015 at 11:32 AM

    Until this MASN debacle gets resolved, the Nats are going to be hamstrung. I know the Lerner family is VERY wealthy, but 400 plus million is a lot to have them underwrite. Manfred needs to be a lot more proactive than that unless schmuck Selig was.

  11. Sonny G 10 - Oct 12, 2015 at 1:08 PM

    Pay the man. He’ll pay for himself with the extra revenue he’ll bring to the club.

  12. Section 222 - Oct 12, 2015 at 2:53 PM

    One of my favorite quotes from the story:

    “Just 38.5 percent of all pitches thrown to Harper this season were in the strike zone, according to Baseball Info Solutions, lowest in the majors. For comparison’s sake: In 2004, when he drew a major league-record 234 walks, Bonds still saw 44.4 percent of pitches thrown to him in the strike zone.”


    • derwink - Oct 12, 2015 at 3:10 PM

      Is that due to those batting behind him? I cannot remember offhand who batted behind Bonds.

      • dhamm6500 - Oct 12, 2015 at 3:55 PM

        In 2004…JT Snow, maybe? Edgardo Alfonso?

  13. fpa4356 - Oct 12, 2015 at 4:20 PM

    Jeff Kent ?

    • fpa4356 - Oct 12, 2015 at 5:22 PM

      I am wrong. It was Edgardo Alfonzo. Kent was long gone by 2004.

  14. Mrsb loves the Nats - Oct 13, 2015 at 7:08 AM

    Only thing I can say about bharp3407…. phenomenonal. We were so lucky to see him play this year out. Cant wait to see what happens next year with him.





As ESPN-980 AM's Nats Insider, Mark makes daily appearances on the station's various shows. Here's the 2015 schedule (subject to change)...

MON: 12:45 p.m.
TUE: 2:30 p.m.
WED: 4:30 p.m.
THU: 2:30 p.m.
FRI: 5:30 p.m.
SAT: 10:30 a.m.

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