Jul 1, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals left fielder Bryce Harper (34) runs to first base after hitting a single during the fourth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
No. 1: Bryce Harper
There’s certainly plenty of reasons to argue against putting Bryce Harper here. He’s missed plenty of time with injuries, and the potential that he’s been burdened with has yet to be lived up to. That being said, he’s still more qualified than the rest of the Nationals top left fielders.
Willie Harris never posted solid offensive numbers. Josh Willingham was respectable, but never put up particularly flash numbers. Soriano bolted from DC at the first chance he got. And Church was such a disappointment at one point in 2006 that he was relegated to the minors. Say what you will about Harper and his potential, but he’s never been sent down for performance issues.
The fact is, when you really look at the numbers, Harper is the best left fielder that the Nationals have had. Over the 357 games that he’s played (most of which have been in left), Harper has accumulated 9.5 wins above replacement and hit 55 homers, both of which are most of anyone on our list. His career slash line is .272/.351/.465, and he’s posted an OPS+ over 100 every season that he’s been in the majors.
Oh yeah; he’s also only 22.
While I understand the sentiments that Harper has yet to “live up to potential” and that he’s a touch on the injury-prone side (even if he claims he isn’t), but his shortcomings aren’t enough to erase what he’s managed to do on the field. If you take away the names and simply look at the numbers, it’s clear enough that Harper has done enough to rank about the rest of those who have manned left field for the Nationals.