Hype can get you a lot of things in sports; a big contract, endorsements, and the recognition of your peers — Washington Nationals 19 year old outfielder Bryce Harper is proof of this, and while he has begun to live up to the hype, he’s not there yet. Where he will be though, thanks to Giancarlo Stanton’s balky knee, is in Kansas City as an All-Star later this week, surrounded by the best in the game and counted among them well before his time.
Now, this isn’t to say that Harper isn’t having a great first year: through 61 games he’s hitting .283 with eight home runs, 25 RBIs, 15 doubles, and a .355 OBP. Those are impressive numbers, especially for someone just barely out of high school, but if you extend those numbers out to a full season, and even sweeten them a little to account for Harper’s continued evolution, you’re probably looking at someone with twenty-five home runs and 75 RBIs — a borderline All-Star if not for all the hype that surrounds the kid.
Harper certainly isn’t the first player to benefit from this and he won’t be the last, but to put it in perspective, Todd Frazier is batting .279 with nine home runs, 29 RBIs, 13 doubles, and .349 OBP in 59 games. Granted, Harper has way more runs scored and more steals with 8, but is anyone talking up Frazier as an All-Star?
My point is: this isn’t Harper’s time and we’re too distracted by the hype and the buzz to see that. Let Brandon Phillips, a veteran having a rock solid season for the Reds onto the team, let Johan Santana onto the team, or Aaron Hill, Corey Hart, or Martin Prado. Lets see Harper more fully earn his spot in the future, or let him not — because we all know that this hype thing can go the other way. Maybe he’s the next Mickey Mantle or Griffey Jr. or Andruw Jones or Darryl Strawberry, but could he be the next Bob Hamelin or Jerome Walton? All of those guys burst onto the scene, with three of them winning the Rookie of the Year and all but Mantle getting close to that accolade — none of them were All Stars in their first full season in the majors though, not like Harper. That isn’t a knock on those players and becoming an All-Star before those players isn’t a real accomplishment for Harper, it’s a knock on a system that, more often than not, chooses All-Stars for all the wrong reasons.
One last thing on the hype machine and how fickle it is and how it can fade justifiably and not. Last season Eric Hosmer, Logan Morrison, and Mike Moustakas were three of the most hyped young prospects in the game. Hosmer and LoMo had solid rookie seasons while Moustakas struggled to get the ball over the fence. This year, Hosmer and LoMo are having some growing pains and struggling to live up to the hype that they generated last year. Moustakas? He’s quietly taken his game to the next level, batting .272 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs — he is not an All Star, just didn’t have the hype.
What are your thoughts on Harper making the All-Star Team? Let us know in the comments!