The Nationals are headed to the postseason for the third time in five seasons, after winning the National League East. As this will be the first time that many fans across the Majors will be focusing on their roster, here's our attempt to learn the origins of slugging outfielder Bryce
The Nationals are headed to the postseason for the third time in five seasons, after winning the National League East. As this will be the first time that many fans across the Majors will be focusing on their roster, here's our attempt to learn the origins of slugging outfielder Bryce Harper.
Bryce Harper, OF
Born: Las Vegas
HS: Las Vegas High School
College: College of Southern Nevada
Minors: Hagerstown (A), Harrisburg (AA), Syracuse (AAA)
Path to Washington: The Nationals selected Harper with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 MLB Draft.
Trophy case: 2015 National League MVP, 2015 Silver Slugger, 2012 NL Rookie of the Year, four-time All-Star (2012-13, '15-16), two-time NL Player of the Month (May 2015, April '16), two-time NL Rookie of the Month (May, September 2012), 2011 All-Star Futures Game, 2010 Golden Spikes Award (best amateur baseball player).
:: Before they were postseason-bound: Select a player ::
Famous feat(s): Youngest unanimous MVP (age 23) and first Nationals/Expos player to win the award. On May 8 of this season against the Cubs, walked six times and was hit by a pitch, becoming first player in MLB history to reach base seven times without recording an official at-bat. Hit his first career grand slam, also his 100th career home run, on April 14, becoming the eighth-youngest player to reach 100 homers. Set NL record for most home runs in a season before age 20, with 22 as a rookie. Became youngest position player named to an All-Star team in 2012.
You might not know: As a 16-year-old, Harper hit a 502-foot home run in a high school showcase at Tropicana Field, the longest ever recorded at the Rays' ballpark. (A year earlier, as a high school freshman in Las Vegas in 2008, he also allegedly hit a 570-foot home run, as measured by his coaches.)
Six degrees of Willie Aikens: Harper and Mike Trout are held up, time and again, as the young faces of baseball. So it's only fitting that the two superstars played together once upon a time, in the Arizona Fall League in 2011. And yet, despite having Harper and Trout, as well as a slew of other future Major Leaguers, the Scottsdale Scorpions finished 14-22.
"We had an absolute blast," Harper said in an interview with Bleacher Report. "Scottsdale, and playing in the Fall League and being with some of the best players in baseball, and being able to play together, was a lot of fun."
Bryce and Kris: Growing up, Harper and Cubs star Kris Bryant, also a Las Vegas native, played together and against each other. The two were first teammates when Bryant was 9 years old (Harper is nine months younger). Last December, Harper and Bryant were reunited in their hometown when they were presented keys to the city. "He always played up with the older guys because he was so good," Bryant said of Harper last year. "He was always so much bigger and so much stronger than everybody and better. He always threw hard and hit the ball farther. I was like, 'Wow, this kid is going to go somewhere.' Obviously, he's here and doing what he's doing. I expected nothing else."
Dream Team: Harper has said he would be open to playing for the United States in the World Baseball Classic, which begins its next tournament in 2017. But he told CSN Mid-Atlantic that he would want MLB's other young stars to play, too -- listing players like the Mets' Noah Syndergaard, the Cubs' Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo and the Rockies' Nolan Arenado -- if he were to join the team.
"I think when you really look at it, if the guys play that you really want to play with, then definitely I'll play. But if we're not going to have the opportunity to win, then I don't want to play," Harper said. "If we do that, then I'm definitely in. If not, I probably won't do it."
David Adler is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @_dadler.