2012 NL Rookie of the Year and Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper will not fall victim to the sophomore jinx. He will perform just as well, if not better, in 2013.
The so-called sophomore jinx is as old as sport. It is the curse applied to second year players who play poorly after coming off of successful rookie seasons. When things begin to go bad, everyone immediately points to the sophomore jinx. Poor second seasons have happened often to players who have won rookie of the year. Some recovered to go on to great careers while others have not.
Harper is too talented a player to fall victim to the jinx. He has all of the physical tools to be a perennial all-star and the mental capacity to maximize them. Harper was called up to the Nationals last April when he was only 19 years old. He was immediately put into the starting lineup in center field and remained there. Harper is not a natural center fielder and struggled at times, but manager Davey Johnson never gave replacing him a thought.
At the plate, Harper began hitting MLB pitching right away then had to adjust as pitchers learned how to pitch to him. He did this well enough to move up into the second spot in the batting order by season’s end. This is significant, because it meant Johnson wanted to maximize the number of at bats for the rookie.
The sophomore jinx should not be a problem for Harper, because he has already shown that he can make the adjustments necessary to be successful and done it at a young age. Only two years after moving to the outfield, Harper had to learn how to play center field on the fly. At the plate, he had to help pick up the slack when veterans Ryan Zimmerman, Jayson Werth, Michael Morse and Ian Desmond missed time due to injury. Harper did all of this while enduring the heat of a playoff run which saw Washington win its first NL East title.
If there was any sign which showed Harper could handle the big time, it was his play in the post season. Harper struggled in the first four games of the NL Divisional Series against the St. Louis Cardinals before coming to life in the deciding game five. He tripled his first at bat then hit a solo home run the next to help stake Washington to a 6-0 lead. The Nationals were defeated 9-7, but Harper proved that he could rise to the occasion with his two big hits in game five.
In his two short seasons with the Washington organization, Harper has done nothing to show that his future will be anything less than bright.
The sophomore jinx will have to find someone else to mess with in 2013, because Bryce Harper will not fall victim to it.