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Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper named NL Rookie of the Year

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Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper tonight was named National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. The BBWAA citation is the first bestowed upon a National since the club’s arrival in D.C. in 2005.

Harper hit .270 with 26 doubles, nine triples, 22 home runs, 59 RBI, 56 walks and 18 stolen bases in 139 games as a true rookie for the Nationals in 2012. For his efforts, the youngest player in MLB was named an All-Star by NL manager Tony La Russa.

“Upon joining us, Bryce’s impact on our lineup and defensive alignment was immediate and came at a great time of need,” said Mike Rizzo, Nationals Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations and General Manager. “His sustained energy and enthusiasm throughout the summer played a big part in fueling our division title. On behalf of the Lerner Family and the Nationals organization, I’d like to congratulate Bryce on his historic NL Rookie of the Year season.”

Upon debuting with the Nationals, April 28 at Dodger Stadium, Harper provided an immediate spark to the Nationals’ lineup and by season’s end his offensive output was arguably the finest put forth by a teenager in baseball history. Harper established records with 57 extra-base hits and 254 total bases as a teenager, while only Tony Conigliaro (24) hit more home runs before his 20th birthday.

Harper, who turned 20 on October 16, ranked fifth in the National League with 98 runs scored despite beginning the season at Triple-A. He also legged out an electrifying nine triples to rank eighth in the NL.

Defensively, Harper started games at all three outfield positions, but by August, he’d cemented his status as Davey Johnson’s starting center fielder on a club that eventually posted the most wins (98) in MLB. Harper’s 9.7 Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) ranked fourth in MLB among those to play at least 700 innings in center field,

At the plate, Harper paced NL rookies in runs, OPS (.817), game-winning RBI (12) and extra-base hits (57). The 22 home runs ranked second among NL neophytes behind only catcher Wilin Rosario (28) of the Rockies.

When Harper registered at least one RBI in a game, Washington went 30-8 (.789). When he scored a run, the Nationals played .743 ball (55-19). And when the left-handed hitting rookie homered, the Nationals finished 15-5 (.750).

Harper won the NL Rookie of the Month award in both May (.271, 13 extra-base hits, four home runs, .860 OPS) and September (.330, seven doubles, three triples, seven home runs, 14 RBI, 1.049 OPS). His late-season surge helped the Nationals hold off the hard-charging Braves and claim the franchise’s first full-season division title.

Harper is the first DC-based player to win a Rookie of the Year citation since outfielders Albie Pearson and Bob Allison claimed consecutive American League awards in 1958 and ’59, respectively. Harper joins outfielder Andre Dawson (1977) and Carl Morton (1970) as just the third franchise player to be named NL Rookie of the Year.

Also this evening, 21 year-old Angels outfielder Mike Trout was named the American League Rookie of the Year. Harper and Trout were teammates with the Scottsdale Scorpions in the 2011 Arizona Fall League.

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