In honor of Ken Griffey Jr. day, let’s look at the similarities between the man with the prettiest swing and perhaps the closest replica in the big leagues today: Bryce Harper.
There are some pretty amazing similarities between the two that almost seem certain to draw parallels. Both men were drafted #1 overall at the age of 17, and both men made their MLB debut at the age of 19. Within their first 4 seasons, both men had a Silver Slugger under their belt and were selected to 3 all star games. Statistically, Harper holds the edge of their rookie season, posting a WAR 2.1 points higher than Griffey’s (4.6 & 2.5 respectively). Both men share similar home run numbers, as shown by this graph courtesy of FanGraphs:
And let’s not forget, both men have absolutely gorgeous swings, especially when crushing a home run.
Early on, Bryce Harper holds the advantage accolades wise, as Harper won a Rookie of the Year, and won his first MVP (4th season) far earlier than Griffey won his only MVP (9th season). However, Griffey holds the edge as an all around player. While the batting stats are similar, and may give Harper the edge when it comes to home runs and RBI’s, Griffey struck at a rate significantly smaller than Harper’s. Through four seasons, Harper struck out 449 times in 2143 plate appearances (20.95%) while Griffey struck out 313 times in 2422 plate appearances (12.92%). Add that along with 23 more stolen bases, Griffey’s Gold Glove caliber fielding compared to Harper’s fielding, and it is apparent that Griffey may not have the edge accolade wise in the beginning of his career, but shows all around more talent.
Although Bryce is an exceptional talent who has taken the MLB by storm, if he ever wants to be the second coming of The Kid he must continue to hit for power and improve his contact hitting, base running, and fielding. To compare someone as young as Harper to a Hall of Fame icon is a tad absurd, but the seeds have been planted to draw parallels between the two for the rest of Harper’s career. Despite the similarities though, I believe that Harper will not become the next Ken Griffey Jr., instead will create his own legacy, and cause us to compare his phenomenal career to the superstars in the MLB of the future.