Over the past week, Harper surpassed the already high standard he had set for himself. He laid waste to American League East pitching, going 10 for 21 with two homers. The Nationals have won six straight games and hold a 41
2-game lead in the National League East, the widest gap in the majors. The Nationals are the hottest team in baseball as they brace for a first-vs.-first showdown beginning Friday against the New York Yankees at Nationals Park. And Harper, 19, is their hottest player.
Harper is hitting .303 with a .384 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage. Over his past 21 games, he has authored one of the hot streaks that makes him, in his word, “scary,” batting .370 over the period. He has an overall on-base plus slugging percentage that ranks first all-time among teenagers with at least 150 plate appearances, surpassing Mel Ott in 1928.The season is not yet half over, and opposing pitchers have not had a second look at him. But for now, he is at places no one has ever been.
Could he also be an all-star? The youngest player to make the Midsummer Classic is right-hander Dwight Gooden in 1984, then a 19-year-old New York Mets rookie also managed by Davey Johnson. Harper would be 19 years 8 months old on the day of the All-Star Game, one month older than Gooden and the youngest position player ever to make the game.
“It would be a lot of fun to make it the first year, I think,” Harper said. “But that’s for the best of the best. That’s for guys who are hitting .350 with 20 home runs, 70 RBI. If I make it, I make it. If I don’t, there will be next year and beyond that.”
Harper spoke Tuesday afternoon, before the Nationals’ second game at Rogers Centre. He expressed doubt that he had done enough to make the game, comparing his season to Los Angeles Angels rookie Mike Trout, the 20-year-old sensation he played with in last year’s Arizona Fall League.
“I think I have another level, absolutely,” Harper said. “I’m not hitting .300. I’m not doing what Trout’s doing. Trout’s hitting .350, .360, so he’s blowing my numbers away. I want to come in here every day and play and win. As long as we get that W by the end of the day, that’s all that matters.”
Harper was hitting .295. That night, he went 3 for 4 and hit a home run an estimated 438 feet, off the facade of a restaurant, sending a ripple through a smart phone advertisement. By the end of the night, he was hitting .307.
Harper is not listed on the paper all-star voting ballot found in every ballpark, and he has not been added to the online ballot, which makes his manager doubt he’ll be included. “Probably not,” Johnson said. “He missed a month. If you miss it by the voting, how you going to get in?”