Hitting three home runs in a game are the type of performances, and the potential for more, are what landed Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year old high school player. Each of the three home runs were longer than the previous. He is the youngest player since 1970 to hit three home runs in a single game. He has continued to terrorize pitchers since his three homer game.
Harper has been billed as the next great thing in baseball since before he was drafted first overall by the Nationals in 2010. While he has already a two time all-star, he has developed himself into an above average Major Leaguer. In a little over 3 full seasons, Harper is averaging .274 BA, .358 OBP, .480 SLG, 162 hits, 27 doubles, 27 home runs, 74 RBI, 98 runs scored 13 stolen bases, 76 walks, and 148 strikeouts. Harper also has a career .978 fielding percentage. Overall, solid but not eye popping numbers. However, it is easy to forget Harper is only 22 years old. Aside from the natural growth and progression that any ball player goes through, he has developed with a microscope on him.
Easily the biggest issue for Harper is that he plays too hard for his own good. Crashing into walls when he does not need to, or injuring himself after smashing a bat against a wall have kept Harper from playing more than 139 games in a season. The youthful exuberance, while great needs to be channeled in the proper direction. Harper has the potential to be a super star, but he will need more performances like this three home run game to take that next step. He is under contract through the end of the 2016 season with the Nationals. He can challenge the contracts of Mike Trout and Giancarlo Stanton if he continues to flourish. Harper is off to a terrific start in nearly every other offensive category. He leads the National League in both home runs and walks.
Baseball is better when its young stars are playing well, and even better when those stars exceed those expectations. Bryce Harper can do some special things on the diamond; hopefully this is the beginning of his coming out party. This last week for Bryce Harper has put his name in the record book alongside some of the great players in baseball history. Hopefully, Harper can realize his potential and we will get to watch some great baseball