Yes, it is still early. Yes, we still can have fun with small sample sizes. Yes, there will be slumps, alongside miscues and errors. But with what we’ve seen so far from Bryce Harper, this may be the year he finally silences critics.
Although we’re only 11 games into the season, less than ten percent, Bryce Harper has started the season doing what everyone expected him to do when he was a prospect. Harper has had disciplined at bats, unreal power, and has shown the fire that made him so popular while simultaneously toning it down enough that he is no longer making plays that put his health at risk.
And while this (albeit, expected) advancement in Harper’s development is exciting and important, it’s even more exciting and important especially right now.
The Nationals are sitting on the verge of losing three to four players, depending on if they extend anyone. Those four players are shortstop Ian Desmond, center fielder Denard Span, and starters Doug Fister and Jordan Zimmermann. On the offensive side of things, Desmond and Span have been vital to the Nats offensively over the past few years. The duo, who aren’t typically mentioned together, have both done their part and more in different ways.
Desmond has driven in runs as well as providing power, and a sneaky amount of speed, as he has achieved 20-20 seasons for three years in a row now. Span mainly sets the table in the leadoff role, and sets the tone for games. Despite all the help they provide, both are expected to depart through free agency for the 2016 season.
And while the Nationals do have replacements for both Desmond and Span, in Yunel Escobar and Michael A. Taylor, a new offensive leader will need to step up. So what better time than now for Bryce Harper to emerge as a chair of the offensive board? While three home runs don’t look like a lot, Harper’s approach feels different this year, and looks different. He’s making more contact, coming up more in the clutch and is still hitting mammoth home runs. His average isn’t there yet, but as long as he keeps it up, it will certainly come.
If Harper continues to stay healthy, and keeps his head on his shoulders, alongside not changing his approach, Harper could very quickly become the most important offensive piece on this team.