During his rookie season, Bryce Harper was brought up to help an already loaded Nationals team that was first place in their division. He was an added plus to a roster of veterans, looked at for a spark with several guys down to injury.
Fast forward to this year and Harper is one of the central figures in the Nats' clubhouse. Washington reconfigured their team to replace offense with defense and have looked at Harper to be one of the central pieces of their lineup. While they didn't necessarily need him in 2012, now he's irreplaceable.
It was a quick transition for the young star who's still only 20-years-old, but not a challenge too big. He definitely sees a difference in his role this season, and hopes to expand his place as a leader on the team moving forward.
"I was just going to keep my mouth shut for the whole year last year, just try to play my game and play as hard as I could every single day. I was truly blessed and humbled to be a part of this team last year and to be a part of it this year," he said.
Harper spoke up after a blowout loss against the Tigers on July 31, saying the Nats needed to play with more heart, from the manager down. It was a big step in the maturity of the All-Star outfielder, his first real attempt at making a public rallying cry.
The Nats haven't necessarily responded to his words quite yet, but Harper is comfortable with trying more things of that sort in the future.
"I’ve always been a leader ever since I was younger. Each team I’ve played for I’ve tried to lead and lead by example."
Harper is still the youngest player on the Nationals, even with seven different players making their MLB debuts this season. He still looks up to the older players on the team, particularly Ian Desmond and Jayson Werth whom he calls the true leaders in clubhouse.
"Desmond, he’s a big leader for us, and also J-dub. Having those two guys on our club lead us towards what we need to do, I’ll let them do that for now and hopefully just do what I can do to help this team win."
It has been a tough season for the 54-60 Nationals who are watching their playoff chances diminish by the day. There is still hope, however, for them to make the postseason, and Harper isn't wavering. He says the NL Wild Card is still attainable.
"All we need to do is get our foot in the door and get in that last game. Hopefully we get into the playoffs."