Bryce Harper's journey from phenom to World Series

From SI cover at 16 to MLB superstardom and now, the World Series

October 28th, 2022

has been in the spotlight for half his life. Since he was 16 years old, the entire baseball world has watched him grow from an amateur phenom who was hyped like few prospects before him, to a two-time National League MVP who is on track for Cooperstown.

It's been a long and incredible journey for Harper, who will play in the World Series for the first time in his storied career Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Here's a trip down memory lane, revisiting Harper's journey to this milestone moment in his career:

June 2009: The Phenom

Harper appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated at age 16, dubbed “the most exciting prodigy since LeBron.” LeBron James has lived up to the enormous hype with his illustrious NBA career, and Harper has done the same, winning two NL MVP Awards and now reaching the World Series for the first time.

June 7, 2010: No. 1 overall

The Nationals selected Harper with the No. 1 overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft, signing the 17-year-old to a five-year, $9.9 million contract, which included a $6.25 million signing bonus.

April 28, 2012: A highly-anticipated debut

Harper made his MLB debut against the Dodgers, picking up his first Major League hit with a double to center field in the seventh inning off right-hander Chad Billingsley at Dodger Stadium. Harper launched his first big league home run on May 14 against the Padres at Nationals Park, homering again against San Diego the following day.

November 2012: Rookie of the Year

After hitting .270/.340/.477 with 22 home runs and 18 steals in 139 games, Harper was voted NL Rookie of the Year in 2012. He was also an All-Star that first season and even received some down-ballot NL MVP Award votes. He only hit .130 in the NL Division Series against the Cardinals, but he did hit his first postseason homer.

November 2015: MVP

Harper had a historic 2015 campaign, hitting .330/.460/.649 with 42 homers and a 198 OPS+.

It was a career year, and even though he’d win another MVP Award six years later, his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, runs scored (118), hits (172) and homers from the 2015 season remain career highs.

Oct. 12, 2017: Coming up short in October

Harper reached the postseason with the Nationals four times in the seven years he spent with Washington. The last of those postseason trips came in 2017. In NLDS Game 5 at Nationals Park, the Cubs edged the Nats, 9-8, leaving Harper, who hit .211 with a double and a homer in the series, short of the LCS yet again.

March 2, 2019: A record deal with the Phillies

A free agent for the first time at age 26, Harper inked a 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies, a record until Mike Trout signed a 12-year, $430 million extension with the Angels later in the same month. “You're always remembered for winning, and what better place to do it than Philly?” Harper said at the time. “This place is somewhere where fans and blue-collar people thrive on winning and thrive on being a family.”

November 2021: Another MVP Award

Over his first two years with the Phillies, Harper had excellent seasons at the plate, though perhaps a bit below his ultra-high standards, causing some to wonder whether he’d ever reach the level he reached in his 2015 MVP campaign. Harper proved the doubters wrong in 2021, garnering his second NL MVP Award after posting a 1.044 OPS with an MLB-leading 42 doubles to go along with 35 homers in 141 games.

Oct. 23, 2022: The biggest swing of his life

In his fifth postseason, and his first in five years, Harper elevated his performance to another level. It culminated in Game 5 of the NLCS against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park, when he smashed a go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning to lift the Phillies into the World Series for the first time in 13 years.

Harper was named NLCS MVP after hitting .400 with three doubles, two homers and five RBIs.