Brandon Woodruff is a 25-year-old pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s made two appearances in relief this year, 10 appearances overall in his career. Before this season started, he ranked No. 61 on Baseball America’s top-100 list.
Woodruff was born Feb. 10, 1993, which makes him the oldest prospect on the list. He just turned 25 years old.
Bryce Harper was born Oct. 16, 1992. He also just turned 25 years old, but he’s still older than Woodruff. Which means he was older than every last prospect on the Baseball America top-100 list.
Which means we have to stop saying “Harper is basically the same age as a prospect.”
We’ve crossed the rubicon.
For as long as Harper has been in the league, describing him as the same age (or younger) than the typical prospect has been such an easy and welcome shortcut. Harper has always been a precocious talent, coming up as a teenager and winning the National League MVP when he was the same age as a college senior. And when he was the same age as a prospect, it was so easy to point out that ...
- Harper was historically young for a great player
- When players are this good, this young, they usually have Hall of Fame careers
- Everybody pay attention to Harper
All of this is still true, and somehow it’s so easy to forget. Harper has been around for six seasons now, and we’ve all had our moments where we underappreciated him or forgotten just what a baseball freak he is. Mike Trout existing is probably the best reason. Harper chews on batting helmets with murder eyes, and Trout is just a little bit better at everything (including staying healthy) and he gets excited about clouds. Trout is the perfect storm for ignoring Harper just a little too much, and that is absolutely a weather reference.
Now that Harper isn’t a prospect, what comes next? He’s currently in the middle of a torrid April, which is kind of his thing. He struggled in an April years ago, when he was a zygote, but since then, he’s been reliably putting up four-digit OPSesses and shaming pitchers for an entire month. His Opening Day home run streak was snapped, but he made up for it by hitting four home runs in three games once April started. It looks like he’ll be excellent again, and it won’t surprise anyone.
What comes next is twofold: The first will have to do with speculation, and it’s already started. Harper is a free agent after the season, and considering that Scott Boras is his agent, it’s likely that he’ll get a contract that will make him rich enough to hire Elon Musk to make rocket sounds whenever Harper hits a ball to the outfield.
ELON MUSK: PRRRSSSSSHHHHHHTTTTTT BLAST OFF!
BRYCE HARPER: Don’t use the words next time. Just the onomatopoeia.
MUSK: Yes, sir!
Jon Heyman has a list of Harper’s likely landing spots, and it looks like you think it does, with the Dodgers, Nationals, Phillies, Giants, Cubs, Braves, Yankees, and Red Sox. I’m morbidly curious about the Rockies — for science! — but that seems like a likely bunch. We’ll spend the next few months talking about this and then a few months after that discussing What It All Means.
But the next chapter that I’m most interested is the one about how Harper sheds the “historically great for someone that young” label and transitions into “historically great.” It’s possible that he’s done it already. He already has more career homers than some All-Stars of yore, like Davey Johnson, Bill Mazeroski, Darren Daulton, and Mike Greenwell. He has more career WAR than Jason Bay, Carlos Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Jay Buhner, Raul Ibanez, George Bell, Jeromy Burnitz, Cliff Floyd, and Garret Anderson. Among others.
And, again, this is impressive because he’s younger than some of the prospects on ...
Sorry, force of habit. That is, he’s just a little bit older than some of the prospects on a top-100 list. But, eventually, we won’t even need that qualifier. We probably haven’t needed it for a couple of years now. After the MVP, mentioning his preternatural ability in conjunction with his age was just another reason to keep that low, long whistle sustained for another few seconds when discussing his career and future.
What’s next for Harper, now that he’s a normal baseball player with abnormal talent, is for him to spend another six or seven years in the prime of his career, doing things that haven’t been done very often. Only his body being a jerk can stop him, and that’s not a dismissive warning. Bodies can be absolute jerks, and Harper has a lot of wear and tear on his body for a 25-year-old.
Still, we’ve asked you to predict Harper’s career before, and three years later, it seems apparent that 23 percent of you are complete dinguses.
We’re still on pace for that last one, which would mean a career that extends deep into Harper’s 30s, if not the next decade, and allows him to hit 600 or 700 home runs. For now, though, let’s take some time to light a votive candle to the memory of Bryce Harper being younger than most prospects. Harper is a regular ol’ all-star now, and we’ll have to get used to this reality. In five years, we’ll be talking about his eventual decline, and how his $40 million salary will be something of a drag for his team, even if he’s still hitting at an MVP level.
Until then, we get to watch a special player in a prime that will go on for a lot longer than we had a right to expect. And I’ll have to come up with new ways to describe this because my lazy words are gone.
It was a fun time. He took advantage of this era, and we have no regrets. Welcome to regular life, Bryce Harper.