On Harper's finish to 2014

The National League Division Series obviously didn't go as the Nationals hoped.

The team didn't perform as well as many, including those inside the clubhouse, expected it to. Many players didn't play to their ability levels. And they will openly admit as much.

Despite the disappointment from a team perspective, there were a couple of positives from that series, however. And Bryce Harper was one of them.

Harper had an up-and-down 2014 regular season, which featured a significant injury, stretches where he was absolutely locked in (like the two-week stretch from late August through mid-September when he hit six homers in 15 games), and periods where he called himself "lost" at the plate.

The Nationals left fielder ended up playing in 100 regular season games, hitting .273/.344/.423 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs. It wasn't the type of statistical season he hoped for, for sure, although at least part of that can be attributed to the ligament that Harper tore in his left thumb in late April.

Harper-HR-NLDS.jpgBut in the NLDS, we got a glimpse of what Harper can deliver on a weekly basis, the ability that he possesses. In just his second postseason series, Harper absolutely went off, hitting .294/.368/.882 in the four games against the Giants.

He had five hits in 17 at-bats. Four of them went for extra-bases. Three of them left the yard.

And all three of Harper's postseason homers were absolute moonshots, no-doubt-about-it blasts that showcased his power and bat speed.

Harper was one of the few offensive bright spots for the Nats in the NLDS. He drove in four runs, and even showed the ability to take a walk in a big moment, working Santiago Casilla for a two-out base-on-balls with the Nationals facing elimination in the top of the ninth in Game 4.

You know Harper wanted nothing more than to let loose and tie the game - yet again - with one swing. You know he was looking for a pitch he could hack at. And yet, he took a walk on a 3-2 pitch from Casilla, putting the potential go-ahead run at the plate.

It obviously didn't work out in the end, but in my mind, that at-bat showed that Harper was mature and professional enough to pass the baton, take first as the tying run and trust the guys behind him.

Harper turned 22 yesterday, and as James Wagner of The Washington Post noted, Harper would still be the youngest player on Triple-A Syracuse's roster, if he played there. Same goes if Harper was a member of Double-A Harrisburg's roster. If Harper played for Single-A Potomac, he'd be the second-youngest player on the team.

So much has been talked about Harper's potential for years now. People are eager to see if he can live up to that over the course of a full regular season, if he stays healthy.

With the spotlight on him this postseason, Harper, still so young in his career, certainly lived up to the hype and played to (or above) his potential.

We'll see what 2015 holds.

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