Bryce Harper is still supposed to be a superstar, but no one expected him to be one right away. He came up and showed signs of being a superstar, even if he wasn't one right away. What he was, though, was good enough to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award on Monday, beating out Diamondbacks starter Wade Miley and Reds corner infielder Todd Frazier.
According to Baseball Reference's wins above replacement, Harper had the most valuable rookie season by a teenaged hitter in baseball history, beating out Edgar Renteria by two full wins. Harper hit .270/.340/.477 with 22 homers, rebounding nicely in September after a post-All-Star slump. The 19-year-old hit .330/.400/.643 with eight doubles, three triples, and seven homers over the final month of the season. His 22 home runs were the second-most by a teenager in baseball history, two behind Tony Conigliaro's 24 in 1964.
But he didn't get special bonus points in the balloting for being younger than his competition. He didn't need it. His batting line was already quite good for an outfielder, teenager or not, but he added to his value with superlative running, a tremendous arm, and good defense in center field. He didn't have the kind of season that made people consider him for the MVP like his counterpart in the American League, but he had a fantastic rookie season, and more importantly, he had the best rookie season in the National League.
In almost any other year, second-place finisher Miley would have had a good argument for the award, as the 25-year-old left-hander posted a 3.33 ERA in 194 innings, striking out 144 and walking 37. Miley threw 75 innings in Double-A last season, walking 28 and striking out 46. His strikeout-to-walk ratios improved for his eight starts in Triple-A, and they got better still in his first full season in the majors. That's kind of a Looney Tunes progression -- sort of like painting the train tunnel on the side of a mountain and having a train come out of it -- but he looks like a valuable piece of the Diamondbacks' rotation for years to come.
Frazier finished third in the voting, and he was a surprise for the Reds, hitting .273/.331/.498 with 19 homers in 422 at-bats. He didn't exactly have a starting gig nailed down, but injuries to both Scott Rolen and Joey Votto during the season allowed him to float around first and third base. When both Rolen and Votto were healthy, Frazier played more often at third, though his playing time diminished at the end of the season. He started two of the Reds' final eight regular-season games, and just one of their five playoff games.
|Bryce Harper, Nationals||16||8||8||112|
|Wade Miley, Diamondbacks||12||13||6||105|
|Todd Frazier, Reds||3||7||9||45|
|Wilin Rosario, Rockies||1||2||1||12|
|Norichika Aoki, Brewers||2||5||11|
|Yonder Alonzo, Padres||1||1|
|Matt Carpenter, Cardinals||1||1|
|Jordan Pachecho, Rockies||1||1|
All 32 ballots listed Harper, while Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune left Miley off his ballot entirely. GET HIM, INTERNET!