Let’s imagine what Harper, who had the best overall season of any teenager in big league history last year, might do if he has, say, one of the best 20 seasons of any 20-year-old.
. . .
Most projections for Harper put him into the wrong category: all ballplayers. Compared to everybody, anyone’s chances of being superb look dim. But what if we compare Harper to a more accurate peer group: No. 1 overall draft picks taken out of high school that played power positions? Since the 1977 draft, here is the list of just successes: Harold Baines, Darryl Strawberry, Griffey, Chipper Jones, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer (three batting titles by 27). Justin Upton’s grade is “incomplete,” but he is a cautionary note for Harper fans. At 20, he was as good a hitter (per at-bat) as Harper at 19, but six years later, he isn’t any better.
When these No. 1 overall picks became established in the majors, they almost always got better dramatically. The younger they arrived, the more they improved. Who flopped? Only Al Chambers, Shawn Abner and mediocre Delmon Young, who hit .288 as a rookie at 21 but never got better.
. . .
The possibility of an outlandish season is far from outlandish.