Once referred to as “baseball’s chosen one,” Bryce Harper is now being called the most overrated player for the second year in a row.
But Harper doesn’t mind if people are upset by his comments. After all, he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16-years-old. Now, the 22-year-old is asking where his ring is.
Here’s what you need to know about him:
1. Harper Was Called “Baseball’s Chosen One” at 16
Harper was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 16, next to the headline, “Baseball’s Chosen One.” Below that, the level of excitement he created was compared to that of LeBron James.
At the time, Harper told SI he wanted to be on the fast track to playing with the Yankees.
Hopefully as soon as 18- or 19[-years old]. The fast track. … Be in the Hall of Fame, definitely. Play in Yankee Stadium. Play in the pinstripes. Be considered the greatest baseball player who ever lived. I can’t wait.
Damon Oppenheimer, a scout for the Yankees, said his quality of play was because he didn’t take it for granted.
He’s the real deal. You know why? It’s like he doesn’t take the game and the gift that he has for granted. He’s maximizing everything. You’re not worried about him going out there and living on talent alone. He’s working hard. He’s playing hard. He has a maturity about him, a toughness that says he’s going to work his butt off. It’s really refreshing to see these kinds of skills and talent, and the work ethic and dedication to go with it.
2. Harper Was Named Most Overrated Player the Past 2 Years
In ESPN Magazine’s anonymous poll of major leaguers, Harper was named the most overrated player — by a landslide — for the second consecutive year. He received 41 percent of the votes, with Dodgers’ outfielder Yasiel Puig coming in second, again, with 15 percent.
The gap between the two exploded from last year, with Harper finishing with 24 percent and Puig 21 percent in 2013.
3. Harper Said He Stands Behind His Big Claims
Harper told the Washington Post he stands behind what he says.
I mean, it’s just some of the things I do. I’m very genuine with what I say. It’s not like I go out there and I’m an ass. Maybe on the field and between the lines I am. Walking out of the clubhouse, I feel like I’m one of the nicest guys you’ll meet. If I say something it’s because of the confidence I have in my team, not because I want to be in the media attention. Maybe I’ve been hurt the past two years and haven’t lived up to everything people think I should live up to. But I’d rather piss people off playing hard than piss people off playing soft.
One of his big claims came in February, with the signing of Max Scherzer. According to another Washington Post article, Harper thinks he sets the Nationals up for a World Series Championship.
Because I mean we had a great staff. … So to be able to have a guy like Scherzer come in? I just started laughing. I was like, ‘Where’s my ring?’ You know what I mean? It’s stupid. It’s absolutely stupid how good our staff is. I mean, to add a Cy Young, to add a guy that’s unbelievable in the postseason — if you have to go into a five-game set in the postseason, looking ahead like I told you I wouldn’t, but if you have to go into a five-game set against a team, you’re going to have to face Zimmermann, Fister, Scherzer and Stras. I mean, good luck. Because that’s insane. Going into that, it’s just, I’m crying because it’s hilarious having to go in there and face them. It’s absolutely stupid. We have the best staff in all of baseball, I don’t care what nobody says, and the thing about our guys, they work.
4. Harper Got Engaged Last Year
Engagement photos of Harper and longtime girlfriend Kayla Varner were leaked in May, 2015.
The two are both Las Vegas natives, and Varner plays soccer at Ohio State. She spent her first two years at Brigham Young University before transferring, according to Yahoo.
However, according to the Washington Post, their wedding was planned for January but never happened. Both of them have since removed each other from their bios on various social media platforms and no longer follow each other on Twitter.
5. Harper Signed a $7.5 Million Contract Extension in December
Harper, the first overall pick of the 2010 draft, signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract extension in December. He’ll make $2.5 million from his contract this season and $5 million next, according to Sporting News.
His original contract had him making up to $1.5 million after bonuses this season.
Entering his third year in the pros, Harper has a .272 average with 55 home runs, 149 RBIs and 210 runs scored.