Bryce Harper’s Place in History

It’s no secret that Washington Nationals phenom, Bryce Harper, is having a phenomenal rookie season and is easily on his way to Rookie of the Year honors.. If you remember, Lee wrote a great piece about Harper and his future prospects. When looking at other seasons by 19 year olds though, I was wondering where Bryce Harper stacks up. Obviously there have been other post regarding the topic, like this by FanGraph’s Dave Cameron but I wanted to see for myself.

Through 203 plate appearances, Bryce Harper’s currently has a line of .287/.369/.506, which is good for a wOBA of .375 and a wRC+ of 138. In fact, there are only four other players in the history of baseball to have a higher wOBA than Harper as a 19 year old, with a minimum of 100 PA.

Oyster Burns, one of the players who had a higher wOBA than Bryce Harper, was alive and played baseball during the 1880’s! The fact that he still has one of the best wOBA’s by a 19 year old is still pretty impressive when you think about it. He went on to have a solid career, but nothing worth getting excited over.

IIf look at the top of the list you’ll notice that Mel Ott, one of the greatest players of all-time headlines the list. His wOBA was much more impressive than Harper’s but if we look at wRC+ and go on a rate basis then Harper is matching the production that Ott produced. That’s pretty crazy to think about, we’re witnessing a 19 year old who’s matching Mel Ott’s offensive production.

If you look a little ways down the list you’ll notice that Harper is off to a better start then Mickey Mantle as well. It’s unlikely that he’ll keep up his current pace all season but even if he regresses (as expected) he should still be able to finish as good, if not better than Mantle did.

Harper is only 19 years old and the sky is the limit for his career. It’ll be a great experience to be able to follow his career as he gets older and gains experience. Who knows, we may be witnessing the birth of one of the greatest careers of all-time.


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