Lindbergh: Can $300 million buy Bryce Harper a glove?

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on November 20, 2018:

At some point within the next few months, Bryce Harper will smile for the press as he pulls on a jersey at a ballpark to be determined, flanked by bigwigs from whichever team has made him a few hundred million dollars richer than he is right now. The bigwigs will be smiling, too, but somewhere inside, they’ll be wondering what type of player they’ve committed those millions to.

“Anyone who’s done what Bryce Harper has done at 25, if you’ve done that, you’re almost a lock to be a Hall of Fame player,” Harper’s agent, Scott Boras, said earlier this month. Boras also claimed that his client has “great hair,” which was truer when he said it than it is today. But Boras was exaggerating a little less than usual when he asserted that the free-agent outfielder is likely on a Hall of Fame path.

Harper, who debuted in the big leagues at age 19 and turned 26 last month, has amassed 27.4 career WAR, as calculated by Baseball-Reference. Of the 40 retired position players with at least 27 WAR through their age-25 seasons, only 11 aren’t in the Hall of Fame as players, and three of those—Shoeless Joe Jackson, Barry Bonds, and Alex Rodriguez (who hasn’t yet been on the ballot)—are excluded for non-performance-related reasons. Yes, Harper could be the next Vada Pinson or César Cedeño, to name two other outfielders on the non–Hall of Fame list who broke in at 19 but tailed off quickly after age 30. Even they were highly productive players for a few years after age 25, though, and historically speaking, they’re close to the worst-case scenario. In other words, Harper is probably going to be good.

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Originally published: November 20, 2018. Last Updated: November 20, 2018.