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2020 Season Preview

Phillies Nation 2020 Season Preview: Bryce Harper


The 2020 regular season is scheduled to begin in late July, which means it’s finally time to talk some baseball! To prepare you for the season, Phillies Nation will be taking an in-depth look at all of your favorite players. Here’s a review of Bryce Harper’s 2019 season as well as what to expect from the Phillies right fielder in 2020.

Bryce Harper is entering his second season with the Phillies. (Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire)

After four months of endless amounts of speculation, Bryce Harper signed a record-breaking 13 year, $330 million dollar contract with the Philadelphia Phillies. The No. 3 Harper uniform immediately became the best-selling jersey in baseball and fans flocked to the ticket booths at Citizens Bank Park to get a glimpse of the team’s new superstar. Expectations were high for the then 26-year-old and they still are today as Harper is set to begin his second season with his new team.

2019 Stat Line: 157 G, 682 PA, 35 HRs, 114 RBIs, .260/.372/.510, 125 OPS+, 4.6 fWAR

Harper made his highly anticipated Phillies debut on Opening Day of 2019. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game, but that seemed to be an afterthought as the crowd was thrilled to finally see Harper in pinstripes:

Two days later, Harper launched his first Phillies home run into the second deck off of Philadelphia native and former Phillies top prospect Jesse Biddle:

Harper continued his eventful first few days in a Phillies uniform with a trip to his former stomping grounds in D.C. He was booed voraciously by the home fans but that didn’t stop him from launching a bomb that sailed just over a group of traveling Philadelphia fans in right field:

After the first series at Nationals Park, Harper carried a slash line of .241/.352/.434 up until the All-Star break. Saying he was a disappointment in the first-half is a stretch, but he didn’t do enough to earn his 7th All-Star nod.

Fortunately for the Phillies, Harper began to turn it on during the second half. Most of the team struggled mightily after the All-Star break but Harper batted .270 and had a .941 OPS in 67 games.

August turned out to be the best of month of his season and possibly, one of the best of his career. In the same month Harper welcomed the birth of his first child, he hit 11 of his 19 second-half home runs, drove in 25 runs and had a 1.025 OPS. His walk-off grand slam against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 16 will go down as one of the most memorable regular-season home runs in Phillies history:

One of the more underrated aspects of Harper’s 2019 season was his improvement on defense. In 2018, Harper had a career-worst -15 defensive runs saved. Much of that can be attributed to him spending a significant amount of time in center field, but it led many to conclude that Harper’s glove will be a liability throughout his 13-year contract.

Harper stayed in right field for most of 2019 and saw a 25 run improvement in DRS and was named a Gold Glove finalist. In an interview with Matt Gelb of The Athletic in February, Harper attributed his success on the field to first-base coach Paco Figueroa, who simplified his approach on defense.

“I want to work hard to get better in the outfield,” Harper told Gelb. “I was able to do that with Paco, and we need players that are coachable as well. So I want to be as coachable as I can. I want them to be able to come up to me and talk about what they think, or what they’re seeing so I’m able to do that to the best of my ability.”

2020 Preview

Heading into the 162-game season, Harper was a sleeper pick for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Harper was heading into his second year in red pinstripes after an offseason free of distractions as well as a full spring training under his belt. It seemed as though positive regression was inevitable.

Then the shutdown came and things have changed. The noisiness of a shortened 60-game makes it hard for anyone to accurately predict what could happen, but Harper could still have a big year in him.

According to our own Ty Daubert, Harper posted an OPS of 1.190 and 1.042 in the first 60-games of 2015 and 2017 respectively. These were his best seasons through 60 games (and his career), so it’s very possible Harper can be ridiculously productive in this sample size. Last year, Harper had a .832 OPS through 60 and it’s fair to say that could be considered average productivity for him in that span, which the Phillies would take in a heartbeat.

During quarantine, Harper stayed busy. He spent three days a week in the cages back at home in Las Vegas and worked out frequently. He “didn’t really stop” and that showed when Harper crushed a three-run home run off former teammate Max Scherzer in the Phillies’ first exhibition game of summer camp.

It’s easy to get excited over a missile of a home run off an elite pitcher during an exhibition game, but there’s good reason to be excited for what Harper can do in 2020. He’s been on fire since spring training I and it seems to have carried over into the second part:

It’s not clear what award voting will look like in the shortened season and whether or not they will carry as much meaning in a 60-game season, but I think Harper will be an extremely productive player in 2020 and find himself in the MVP conversation when it’s all said and done.

Check out our other 2020 season previews

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