“It was like I was seeing in HD,” Harper said.
Suffice it to say Harper’s hi-def vision is a huge upgrade over standard-def. In 20 games since his visit to the eye doctor, Harper is hitting .480 (36 for 75) with a .547 on-base percentage and an .893 slugging percentage — with 7 homers, 10 doubles and 23 RBI. For the season, he is hitting .395/.473/.702, leading the league in all three “slash-line” categories.
Oh, and lest you forgot, he’s only 18 years old, the youngest player in the “Sally” League. His next closest pursuer in OPS (on-base plus slugging), first baseman Matt Curry of the West Virginia Power, is almost 23. Harper’s classmates at Las Vegas High — the ones he left behind after sophomore year to earn his GED and enroll in a junior college in order to speed up his draft eligibility — are preparing for their senior prom.
Harper’s offensive rampage, which includes a 16-game hitting streak that he continued Thursday night with a third-inning single against visiting Delmarva, raises two important questions:
How did Harper become the top amateur player in the nation in 2010, as well as arguably the greatest hitting prospect in Major League Baseball draft history, when he was “blind as a bat” prior to his being fitted with contacts?
And secondly, what in the world is he still doing here in Hagerstown?
To the first question, Harper merely shrugs and says, “I don’t know” — apparently being too modest to tell the truth, which is: That’s just how good he was.
“I needed [the contacts] in college,” he said. “But I tried them for a while in high school, and they gave me headaches really bad. So I just got by without them. But these are a new kind [of lenses], and they really help. The difference [in vision] is huge.”
The second question — why is Harper still in Hagerstown — is a bit more complicated. A promotion to high-Class A Potomac is almost certainly coming — just not soon enough to satisfy to legions of Nationals fans who want to see him promoted (ideally to Washington) today, if not yesterday.
“We haven’t had any discussions about moving him at all,” said Doug Harris, the Nationals’ farm director. “I know everyone wants to speculate about that. But he’s with a good group [of teammates]. He’s learning. Going through a league a second or third time — that’s a good challenge for a player.”