Bryce Harper, the youngest non-pitching All-Star in Major League Baseball history, has hitting statistics that so far exceed Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez, two potential Hall of Famers who also entered the big leagues before they turned 20.
Harper, the Washington Nationals’ 19-year-old outfielder, replaced injured Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins on the National League roster for tonight’s game in Kansas City. He enters the All-Star break with a .282 batting average, eight home runs and a .354 on-base percentage in 248 at-bats.
Harper, who turns 20 on Oct. 16, was told he was an All-Star by Nationals manager Davey Johnson and General Manager Mike Rizzo on July 7. Though Dwight Gooden and Bob Feller were younger All-Stars, he’ll surpass Minnesota Twins catcher Butch Wynegar as the youngest non-pitcher.
“When Davey called me over, I was thinking I was either going down (to the minor leagues), because Rizzo and everybody was over there, or the All-Star Game,” Harper told reporters. “Good thing it was the All-Star Game.”
Harper’s slugging percentage -- total bases divided by at-bats -- is .472, higher than that of Griffey, Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre and Edgar Renteria for their complete rookie seasons as 19-year-old major leaguers, according to Bloomberg Sports data.
Griffey, who reached the majors in 1989 with the Seattle Mariners, had a .264 batting average and a .420 slugging percentage with 16 homers in 455 at-bats. The 13-time All-Star averaged a home run every 28.4 at-bats as a rookie, slightly better than Harper’s 30.5. Griffey became an All-Star at the age of 20 and retired in 2010. His 630 home runs are sixth most in major league history.
The New York Yankees’ Rodriguez, whose 642 home runs are fifth on the major league career list, is a 14-time All-Star who first saw big-league action as an 18-year-old with the Mariners in 1994. At 19 he had 142 at-bats, posting a .232 batting average with five home runs, a .264 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage of .408.
Beltre, the Texas Rangers’ third baseman who will start for the American League tonight, entered the majors in 1998 as a 19-year-old with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .215 that season with seven homers, an on-base percentage of .278 and a slugging percentage of .369. Beltre didn’t become an All-Star until 2010.
Renteria, a five-time All-Star who retired in 2011, joined the Florida Marlins as a 19-year-old in 1996. He had 431 at-bats that year, hitting .309 with five homers, a .358 on-base percentage and a .399 slugging percentage. Renteria was named to his first All-Star Game at age 21.
“I’m excited to be out there with those kinds of guys,” said Harper, baseball’s No. 1 draft pick in 2010 who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse in April and helped lead the Nationals to an NL-best 49-34 record at the break. “I’m going to take it all in and try to enjoy it with my family and just be as mellow and calm as I can.”