**FILE** Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper Photo by John DeFreitas
**FILE** Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper Photo by John DeFreitas

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was named the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player on Thursday night, in an announcement made by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America on MLB Network.

Harper, who was 22 years, 353 days old at the close of the 2015 season, is the fourth-youngest player ever to win the MVP award, and the third-youngest to take the National League honors. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the only players younger than Harper ever to earn baseball’s highest single-season honor were Vida Blue (AL) in 1971 (22 years, 64 days), Hall of Famer Johnny Bench, in 1970 (22 years, 298 days), and Hall of Famer Stan Musial, in 1943 (22 years, 316 days).

Harper, the first MVP in franchise history (Nationals/Expos), garnered 420 points in the balloting process, including 30 first-place votes, and finished 186 points ahead of the second-place finisher, Paul Goldschmidt of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Harper is just the seventh unanimous NL winner of the MVP award, and the youngest ever to accomplish the feat.

“The entire Lerner family extends congratulations to Bryce on his well-deserved Most Valuable Player award and his tremendous, record-setting season,” said Washington Nationals Managing Principal Owner Theodore N. Lerner. “It’s such a pleasure to watch him play and we look forward to his future outstanding contributions to the team.”

This caps an award-filled season for Harper, who joins Hall of Famer Walter Johnson (1913 & 1924) and Roger Peckinpaugh (1925) of the Washington Senators as D.C. MVP honorees. Harper’s 2015 season also earned him the NL Hank Aaron Award, a Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger, the Player’s Choice Award for NL Outstanding Player, NL Player of the Month honors for May, three NL Player of the Week awards (May 4-10, 11-17, and Sept. 14-20), and the third All-Star selection of his career. Harper, who started in right field and hit third for the NL squad at the mid-summer classic, earned an NL-record 13,964,950 fan votes to be an All-Star starter.

“What a remarkable achievement for Bryce, to become the first Nationals or Expos player ever to earn the Most Valuable Player award,” said Nationals President of Baseball Operations and General Manager Mike Rizzo. “There has never been a question about Bryce’s talent. It’s transcendent. And to watch him put together the type of historic season he did in 2015 – at age 22 – only heightens the excitement for what remains ahead of him. We are extremely proud.

“I also want to congratulate Bryce’s family, as well as our entire organization – including Bryce’s teammates, coaches, support staff, and scouting and player development – for the role they all played in helping Bryce earn this distinguished honor.”

Harper hit .330 with a .460 on-base percentage and a .649 slugging percentage in 2015, clubbing 42 home runs, 38 doubles and one triple. He scored 118 runs and drove in 99. At the close of the season, Harper led the Major Leagues in a number of categories, including: on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.109), and Wins Above Replacement (9.5, per Fangraphs.com). He also led the National League in home runs (T1st, 42), at-bats per home run (12.40), and runs scored (118), while ranking second in the NL in walks with a franchise (WSH/MON) record 124.

The youngest player in MLB history to club 42 home runs and walk 124 times in a season (youngest since Babe Ruth, who hit 54 home runs and 150 walks in 1920 at age 25), Harper is also just the second player since 2000 to accumulate at least 42 homers, 124 walks, and 118 runs in a season, joining Barry Bonds (2001 – MVP, 2004 – MVP). In a season that included a three-homer game (May 6 vs. MIA), two four-walk, four-run games (Aug. 18 at COL & Sept. 3 vs. ATL), and the 500th hit of his career (HR, Sept. 5 vs ATL), Harper solidified his place among the game’s elite players.

This is the second BBWAA honor of Harper’s young career, as he was also named the 2012 National League Rookie of the Year, earning that award after his age-19 season.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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