Top 10 MLB Seasons For Teenagers – Where Would Harper Rank?

Bryce Harper arrived in Viera this weekend to report to his first Nationals Spring Training. At 18, to call him an elite prospect would be an understatement, he is quite simply the most hyped teenager since Ken Griffey Jr.

The Nats are going to be patient with him, however, and make sure that they do not rush him to Washington. That being said, there is a very good chance he could see some significant time in the majors next year at the age of 19. According to Baseball Reference, only 17 position players have ever played 100 or more games in a season as a teenager (Yount and Cavarretta did it twice). From the looks of their performances, only a select few have ever been able to produce in the situation Harper may find himself in next year.

Here are the best seasons by a teenage position player in the MLB ranked by OPS+:

  1. Mel Ott, 1928: 124 GP, 18 HR, 77 RBI, .322/.397/.524, 139 OPS+
  2. Tony Conigliaro, 1964: 111 GP, 24 HR, 52 RBI, .290/.354/.530, 137 OPS+
  3. Johnny Lush, 1904: 106 GP, 2 HR, 42 RBI, .276/.336/.369 , 118 OPS+
  4. Ken Griffey Jr, 1989: 108 GP, 16 HR, 61 RBI, .264/.329/.420, 108 OPS +
  5. Edgar Renteria, 1996: 106 GP, 5 HR, 31 RBI, .309/.358/.399,  103 OPS+
  6. Ed  Kranepool, 1964: 119 GP, 10 HR, 45 RBI, .257/310/.393, 100 OPS+
  7. Freddie Lindstrom, 1925; 104 GP, 4 HR, 33 RBI, .287/.332/.404, 96 OPS+
  8. Phil Cavarretta, 1935; 146 GP, 8 HR, 82 RBI, .275/.322/.404, 93 OPS+
  9. Robin Yount, 1975; 147 GP, 8 HR, 52 RBI, .267/.307/.367, 90 OPS+
  10. Buddy Lewis, 1936; 143 GP, 6 HR, 67 RBI, .291/.347/.399, 88 OPS+
Outside of Mel Ott and Tony Conigliaro, none of these players put up the type of season that the hype of Bryce Harper would demand in his rookie year. Of course, Harper has an advantage over many of the current teenagers in the minors. He already had experience hitting, for power, with a wood bat against top level pitchers, as he used one at the College of Southern Nevada en route to winning the Golden Spikes Award. He is physically advanced for his age, in fact he is already one of the larger players on the Nationals roster. He also seemingly has the desire to succeed, as he has already expressed interest in camp in making the team THIS year.

He will face challenges however. While he did hit against division one pitching last season, pitchers in the upper minor leagues and in the majors will not make the same mistakes college pitchers did. He will have to learn to hit what is given to him, and not wait to see a mistake in hsi bread basket. He will also, likely for the first time, have to learn to hit against pitchers who have game planned against him. Pitchers will find holes in his swing, try to take advantage of his youth, and look to exploit his aggressivness. 

Even so, Harper has a good chance to rank highly on this list before the next two years are up. Mel Ott’s 1928 season may be hard to top, but if anyone can do it, it’s Bryce Harper.