He was voted the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player, the youngest player to ever win the award by unanimous selection, and going by the player’s age at the end of the regular season, he is the fourth youngest player to win a league MVP award at age 22 years, 353 days. The three players to win the honor at a younger age are Vida Blue of the A’s, who was 22 years, 63 days when he was the A.L. MVP in 1971, Johnny Bench of the Reds, who was 22 years, 298 days in 1970 when he was the top player in the N.L., and Stan Musial, who won the N.L. MVP with the Cardinals in 1943 at age 22 years, 316 days.
During the 2015 season, Harper led the N.L. in runs (118), on-base percentage (.460), slugging (.649), OPS (1.109) and tied for the league leadership in homers (42). He also clubbed 38 doubles with 124 walks and 99 RBI while compiling a .330 batting average.
In the process of finishing his fourth major league season with those offensive totals, Harper had these impressive high notes to add to his MVP year:
• He became the sixth youngest player to reach the 40-homer plateau in a single season—those younger include Hall of Famers, Mel Ott, Eddie Mathews, Johnny Bench and Joe DiMaggio along with Juan Gonzalez.
• He joined DiMaggio as the second player, aged 22 or younger, to hit 40 or more homers and bat .330 or higher in a season. The four other players besides Harper and DiMaggio to have a 30-homer season with a .330 or higher BA before their 23rd birthday are Ted Williams, Jimmie Foxx, Hal Trosky and Alex Rodriguez.
• He and Williams are the only two players to post an on-base percentage of .460 or higher and a slugging mark of .645 or better before age 23.
• He and Ott are the only players to finish a season with 40 or more homers, 100 or more walks and post a .300 or higher BA before reach the age of 23.
Harper won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award in 2012 at age 19 when he hit .270 with 22 homers and 98 runs scored. With enormous expectations following his first year in the majors, Harper suffered through two injury plagued campaigns in 2013 and 2014, but last season he worked to stay healthy and play a full schedule to meet the expectations—not of his fans, but of himself.
“I don’t play for the numbers,” he said. “ I play because I love the game, love to compete and want to be successful. I’ve worked hard to play everyday and if I can continue to stay healthy and play every game, the numbers will be there. My main focus is to be able to contribute to helping the team win.”
With a reel of highlights already under his belt at such a young age, Harper is on a path to be one of the most productive players in the game and one of the top performers of his era.
One more highlight from his 2015 season is that he became the 23rd youngest player to reach 500 career hits—and he did that despite missing more than 100 games to injuries since 2012.