Bryce Harper’s second season with the Philadelphia Phillies is on hold, but the man who helped him secure a 13-year/$330 million contract ahead of the 2019 season remains bullish on his future.
“It’s really nice to see that a union like that can happen,” agent Scott Boras said of Harper’s immediate bond with the city of Philadelphia to 6 ABC‘s Jeff Skversky. “You love to see players happy and comfortable, and I’m really excited because I think the optimum of Bryce Harper has yet to be seen. His greatest years are yet to come.
“…I never more in his life enjoyed watching him play than in that environment [at Citizens Bank Park], because every day was opening day to Bryce Harper in Philadelphia.”
It does feel unlikely that Harper will ever top his 2015 season, the year in which he won his first National League MVP Award. That season, Harper slashed .330/.460/.649 with 42 home runs, 99 RBIs, 124 walks, a 1.109 OPS and a staggering 9.3 fWAR for the Washington Nationals. It was one of the most dominant offensive seasons that an individual has turned in over the course of the last 20 seasons.
That said, Harper never had a sustained stretch of four or five seasons where he consistently was among the most dominant players in the league during his time in Washington. The Phillies signed him hoping to get his most sustained stretch of elite production. At age 27, now is as good of a time as any for that type of stretch to begin.
Harper had a very nice first season with the Phillies, slashing .260/.372/.510 with 35 home runs, 114 RBIs, 99 walks and a 4.6 fWAR. A year after the worst defensive season of his career, Harper was a National League Gold Glove Award finalist, as he racked up 13 outfield assists and 10 defensive runs saved. Perhaps 2019 was his ceiling defensively, but there’s a feeling based on past stretches of his career that he was only beginning to scratch the surface of what he’ll do offensively as a Phillie in 2019.
Remember, a year ago, Harper didn’t even sign with the Phillies until Feb. 28. It was a few days after that until he was introduced as a Phillie and could fully focus on actually playing for his new team. In hindsight, it probably shouldn’t have been shocking that Harper had what felt like an underwhelming first half of the season, slashing .253/.370/.470 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs in 332 at-bats. However, he seemed to settle in after the All-Star Break, as he rode a monster month of August to a .270/.376/.564 slash line with 19 home runs and 52 RBIs in 241 at-bats.
In addition to hitting 11 home runs last August, Harper’s son, Krew, was born. For as crazy as the world has gotten because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Harper’s last 12 months have certainly provided him with more stability than his final few years in D.C., where there was seemingly a new article written every day about what team he would sign with when he reached free agency after the 2018 season.
Spring training results should be taken with the largest grain of salt possible, but Harper was off to a scorching-hot start before MLB suspended the season, as he had three home runs and 11 RBIs in his first 16 at-bats in the Grapefruit League. It seemed to signal that a monster year was coming from Harper.
Boras is confident that when baseball returns, Harper will pick right up where he left off. And he said Harper is eager for a chance to perform for Phillies fans again.
“Bryce called me at the end of the  season and said ’I’m so happy that I’m playing in a place where I belong. Philadelphia is me! Those fans and I we’re alike. We have an attitude, we have a desire, we have a passion. I want these people to know, I’m with them and they’re with me for the remainder of my career.'”
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