Updated: Jun 6, 2019
Growing up in Las Vegas, I have grown to have a soft spot for Bryce Harper. We attended the same junior college, and in a town barren of professional sports, Harper has given baseball fans in Las Vegas something to cheer about. 59 games into his Phillies tenure, Harper is playing to prove he deserves every bit of the 13 years $330 million deal he signed in the offseason to make him, at the time, the highest-paid player in Major League Baseball.
Harper joins a Phillies team that is seven years removed from postseason success, a stat line that is glaringly missing from Harper's resume.
2019 marks the start of a new regime in Philadelphia. Led by second-year manager Gabe Kapler and an overhauled roster, the Phillies are looking to end a seven-year postseason drought. As they say in Philly, “Trust the Process” and trust they have.
The Phillies have started 2019 hot and currently sit atop the NL East. The addition of Harper has given the fans in Philadelphia something to get excited about. However, do the numbers on the field reflect the same excitement?
Coming off a less than spectacular 2018 season, Harper finished with a batting line of .249/.393/.496 (133 OPS+), which included 34 home runs and 130 walks.
2019 has been more of the same.
In a season which batting numbers have dwindled league-wide, Harper is mirroring his performance in 2018, batting 248/.360/.486 with a .847 OPS, 11 home runs, 43 RBIs and 37 walks through 59 games. Many were quick to point to his defensive struggles in 2018, and critics wondered if the tide would turn in 2019?
Thus far that question has gone unanswered, as by many regards Harper is having a typical Harper season. Those who were expecting a 180 turnaround on and off the field are no doubt filled with disappointment, but again, this is Bryce Harper we are talking about.
To grade this decision one must look at the performance of fellow superstars Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, and Giancarlo Stanton to assess if the Phillies did, in fact, make the right decision. Many expected the Los Angeles Dodgers to be the landing spot for Harper. However, Los Angeles seems to have learned their lesson after their trials with Manny Machado during the 2018 Postseason.
Players like Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, and David Freese to name a few have begun the year hot to propel Los Angeles to an NL best 41-19 record and another season in which it seems they will be serious contenders come October.
Many will argue that Manny Machado, though trailing Harper statistically, batting .251/.339/.412 with a .751 OPS, nine home runs, 27 RBIs and 26 walks, has benefited the Padres far more than Harper has the Phillies. Defensively that question begs no answer as the results are clear, and like the Phillies, the Padres have made a resurgence of their own in the NL West.
Ultimately the jury is still out regarding Bryce Harper. I like many, am hopeful that we will see the promises realized, and Harper's true potential met.
Statistically speaking, many can argue the addition of Harper has made no difference on the field. Harper is a superstar, and the intangibles he brings to the table are a part of the $330 Million equation for the Phillies. Paired with new leadership, the future is bright, but as we all know in this great game of baseball, nothing matters until the last out in October.
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*preview photo credited to That Balls Outta Here
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