June 9, 2010 - the exact day Stephen Strasburg made his debut with the Nationals. Two days earlier, Bryce Harper was selected first overall in the first-year player draft by the Nationals. The crowd at the ballpark that day could feel something special (at least I did) was about to happen; something was finally going to swing DC’s way. It did.
Strasburg struck out 14 batters that night, giving Nats fans hope going forward. Two years later, Harper made an impactful debut in LA. The year was full of magic, pushing the Nats to their first postseason as a franchise since the Expos in 1981.
However, the team faltered in 2013, with Harper also dealing with various injuries that slowed his play and his production. Even more, I think Harper and the rest of the Nats have something to prove come 2014. With all of this in mind, I think Bryce Harper will be in NL MVP discussions come September.
Harper’s power numbers should increase. His power stroke began coming back around toward the end of the 2013 season, hitting seven of his 20 total home runs down the stretch post-All Star break. He has gained weight, and for someone who just turned 21, will finally have the build of someone to handle that can handle the rigors of a full MLB season. This will lead to a faster, stronger player with another year of experience to draw from and plenty of talent yet to be on display. Also, the leadership of Matt Williams can’t hurt the kid.
Not only is Harper’s physical prowess going to be enough, but his desire, along with 24 other guys on the roster will be to make the playoffs after missing them in 2013. They only got a taste of it in 2012, and they want more. The perfect scenario for Harper to step into. His competitive drive to succeed is only shadowed by his drive to win. He hustles every play out to the best of his ability, and only good can come out of that (just ask Cole Hamels).
Lastly, just as every player does eventually, he will face new contract talks as 2016 approaches. I think the atmosphere in DC can allow him to just be himself off the field and play for a contender on it. He has been comfortable since day one, and has only had success in the nation's capital. Money is always a fine incentive, no matter the player. His desire for an eventual payday will be on that green grass every day.
But more importantly, his goal is to win a championship first. So keep an eye out for this kid, good things should (will) happen this season. Put a ring on it, and MVP trophy in the case. Third time is a charm.