Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is on pace for a record-breaking season.
Bryce Harper is off to a record-breaking start in the 2015 MLB season.
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According to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, Harper currently leads the majors with 39 runs batted in (RBIs), 26 extra-base hits, 40 walks, a 1.198 OPS and a 4.1 Wins Above Replacement (WAR).
Harper also leads MLB right fielders wth 10 Defensive Runs Saved, per Baseball Info Solutions (via ESPN).
His teammate, Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, told Crasnick how far the 22-year-old Harper has gone:
"This is what this kid is capable of doing. Or I should say what this man is capable of doing because he's not a kid anymore. He's an unbelievable baseball player. He has all the instincts and a great swing, and he has a tremendous passion for the game.
"Obviously, he's not going to keep up the torrid pace we're seeing right now, but this is something we can expect to see for a long time. He's special. There's no doubt about that."
Washington starting pitcher Max Scherzer, who was the teammate of two-time American League MVP Miguel Cabrera for five years with the Detroit Tigers, makes an even stronger case for Harper, per ESPN:
"Bryce is a better hitter now that he was even at the beginning of the season. When you start to see him use the opposite field with power, that's the kind of elite stuff I saw in Detroit (with Cabrera).
"The scary part is he still has room for improvement. It's like he's starting to understand the game at a higher level."
Crasnick traces Harper's success as a hitter to better plate discipline. Whenever he's at the plate, he averages 4.38 pitches. This figure places him second in the majors behind Cleveland Indians first baseman Carlos Santana.
In addition, Crasnick says Harper "has been more discerning about swinging at balls both inside and outside the strike zone."
Harper's recent performance is a stark contrast to what it was a little over a year ago.
Nationals manager Matt Williams benched Harper "for failing to run out a routine combacker" against the St. Louis Cardinals, per Crasnick.
To make matters worse, Harper suffered a torn thumb ligament as he slid toward first base during a game last year. The injury sidelined him for two months and his performance left much to be desired when he took the field again late in the season, per ESPN.
Despite his monster start in 2015, Harper told Crasnick he thinks the Los Angeles Angels' Mike Trout is the best player in the majors:
"Baseball is always, 'What have you done for me lately?' That's just how the game works. I still believe Trout is the best player in the game, hands down. It's not about taking a backseat to anybody.
"I love seeing (Giancarlo) Stanton hit homers or Kris Bryant do the things he does. I love watching Matt Harvey or Gerrit Cole or Noah Syndergaard come up and throw 100 mph. I cheer for guys. I've always been that way."
Braynt also told ESPN he's not afraid to say what's on his mind:
"Maybe it's because I'm from Vegas. I'm not scared of what people think. I'll be straightforward, and if I have something to say, I won't sugarcoat it. If you like it, you like it. And if you don't, you don't.
"But if I was on your team, you'd love me because I'm gonna play hard every night. That's the way I am and the way I've always been."
As great as Harper has been playing, The Washington Post's Neil Greenberg argues many have overlooked his improved fielding skills. As of May 26, he rankes 15th among National League outfielders based on revised zone rating.
Harper is also first in plays made outside of the zone in Major League Baseball. In addition, his 10 defensive runs saved puts him third among the league's outfielders.
With these, Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez told The Washington Post on Tuesday Harper is much more than just his batting skills:
"Bryce is becoming the all-around ballplayer. Great defense, great offense. He's learning the game. It's almost incredible to watch. He's got something up his sleeve every time, whether it's all the way down to his walk-up song to the way he goes out and just works the count...
"He's a superstar and he's been a superstar since he was in high school. Basically what we've been waiting to see, and he's bringing it."
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