His slow start in the Arizona Fall League (.200 / .282 / .400 over 9 games - though his last games was a 3 hit affair with a double and a homer) shouldn't worry anyone. He just, like Sunday "just", turned 19. He could spend 2 more whole years figuring out how to hit good pitching, come up in the spring of 2014, and still be a super young rookie.
But I think it wouldn't be a bad idea to dial the hype machine down just a tad. All the way back in early summer this year the comparisons made were to Griffey and A-Rod and Mantle. These comparisons didn't just come from slobbering fanboys but from places where you'd expect reason to reign. And they were fair comparisons.
18 year old A-ball stints
Junior : .338 / .431 /.575
A-Rod : .319 /.379 /.605
Bryce : .318 /.423 / .554
But things get a little less favorable for Bryce during each players brief AA stints the same year.
Junior : .279 /.353 /.492
A-Rod : .288 / .391 / .441
Bryce : .256 /.329 / .395
"But Harper" you say (well actually YOU probably say "But Mr. Blogger Man!" because "Harper" is Bryce to you. You are wrong. I'm Harper!) "It's only 37 games for Bryce (and 17 for Griffey and A-Rod) in AA. That's not enough of a sample size to make a fair comparison!"You're right. But neither is the 72, 65, and 58 games spent in A-ball. We all want Bryce to be the next big thing. Nats fans obviously , but there also seems to be a push from everyone to anoint Bryce the greatest thing ever. Why? Well I think because we're in a little bit of a dry spell for great young players.
I looked up players who amassed WARs of 25 or more by the age of 25. You have a lot of guys that have hit speed bumps on their way to dominant offensive careers. Mauer - injured and not yet recovered, Sizemore - injured and maybe not ever recovering, Wright - just suffered through his worst year (which actually wasn't that bad. Mets fans don't appreciate this guy like they should), and Hanley Ramirez - just suffered through HIS worst year (which actually was that bad). Jose Reyes just had a great year but his value is tied up a lot in his defense. He's more of a good bat with great D than an offensive force. Almost all these guys are 28 (Hanley is 27) so chances of an explosion into something REALLY special are rapidly dwindling.
There are only two great young bats out there yet to get sidetracked, Miguel Cabrera and Evan Longoria, and both of them are on the low end of WAR totals in comparison to the guys we are looking at. For Longoria that's is pretty fair. He's a great fielder and a very good hitter but he's not in the "OMG" highest echelon. He's still young enough to go on a Frank Thomas like tear through his later 20s, but that's a tall order. Cabrera on the other hand is hanging in there with the bat. He's just terrible in the field.
There isn't much coming. The "young" guys rounding into form like Ellsbury, Kemp, Tulo, are all 27/28. Maybe Mike Stanton can turn a corner? Elvis Andrus can start hitting .330? Zimm can be that new Frank Thomas? The best hope is Justin Upton who finally broke through to what people expected from him but he's 3 years behind the Griffeys and the A-Rods of MLB history and has yet to repeat this level of awesomeness.
In terms of an elite, first-ballot, no-doubter, you know when he's 27 enjoy the ride, type guy, baseball hasn't lacked one since the late 70s. Henderson and Ripken rolled into Bonds, who rolled into Griffey, who rolled into A-Rod, who rolled into Pujols. There isn't one out there right now. Baseball is hungry for Bryce to be that guy. Can he be? Yes. Will he be? Maybe, but let's wait until he's in the majors putting up MVP seasons at the age of 21 before we go there, ok?