|Photo by AP|
Harper, 20, also becomes the first player to win the honor with the Nationals since the team moved to Washington. Ryan Zimmerman finished second in 2006, missing first place by just four votes.
Harper received 16 first place votes to beat out Wade Miley of the Arizona Diamondbacks who finished with 12. Reds outfielder Todd Frazier placed third with three first place votes.
Afterwards Harper was humbled to be now share a distinction with players he grew up idolizing.
“Just to be up there with names like Jackie Robinson and Mike Piazza and all the guys that won it is just an honor,” he said. “To be able to have a great team to play with all year, they really made this year fun. This is just icing on the cake, definitely.”
Harper was called up by the Nationals to make his major league debut on April 28 after beginning the season in Triple-A. He was given a chance to make the team out of spring training, but struggled and was sent to play with the Syracuse Chiefs.
After joking that his initial concern was about the cold weather in Syracuse, Harper said the experience was valuable in his quick adjustment to the major league level.
“All I wanted to do was learn as much as I could down there at that level. I had some guys down there that really helped me out,” he said.
“When I got that call I wanted to be ready and make an impact with this team and this organization.“
Harper singled out Jason Michaels as a player who helped him at Syracuse. With lockers next to each other, the rookie said he relied on the 35-year-old veteran as a mentor before his call-up.
After reaching the majors, Harper made an instant impact with the Nationals and finished the year with a .270 average, 22 home runs, 98 runs, and 18 stolen bases. He helped pace the Nats to 98 wins and their first ever National League East division title.
Harper was named the N.L. Rookie of the Month twice during the 2012 season. In May he took the honor after hitting .271 with four home runs and in September won the award after posting a 1.049 OPS, seven home runs, and 14 RBI.
Despite setting many records for a teenage player, Harper said he fell short of his own personal expectations for the season.
“I didn’t reach them. I’m never satisfied with any of my numbers. I think my biggest goal is winning a World Series,” he said. “This is amazing to win this award and to have this accolade, but I want to bring a title back to D.C. That’s my main goal.”
Harper played the 2012 season at the age of 19 and in July became the youngest position player ever to participate in the MLB All-Star game. He is the second youngest player to win the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award only to Dwight Gooden in 1984. Both players were managed by Davey Johnson.
Only two other players in franchise history have been named the league’s best rookie. Andre Dawson (1977) and Carl Morton (1970) took the honor as members of the Montreal Expos.
Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo commented on Harper winning via a press release:
“Upon joining us, Bryce’s impact on our lineup and defensive alignment was immediate and came at a great time of need,” he said. “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.”
Harper received a total of 112 points in the BBWAA voting system while Miley accrued 105. Harper also had eight votes for second place and eight for third place.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, Harper's teammate in the 2011 Arizona Fall League, won the American League Rookie of the Year award.