Bryce Harper is entering his third season as a Phillie, and while he has played to expectations during his first two seasons, the team has underperformed since he joined on a 13-year, $330 million contract.
The Phillies star is coming off an up-and-down 2020 season. He started the season on fire, slashing .343/.478/.714 with a 1.192 OPS in his first 22 games. During that span, Harper had more walks than strikeouts and appeared to be a National League MVP candidate.
But Harper struggled during his next 24 games when he slashed .159/.320/.244 and hit just one home run. Harper rebounded at the end of the season and finished with a .268/.420/.542 slash line over the course of the shortened season.
Per ZiPs, Harper is projected to slash .259/.390/.524 with 34 home runs and 4.2 fWAR. The .914 OPS would be Harper’s second best as a Phillie, behind his production from 2020. Additionally, ZiPs projects Harper to finish with 108 walks to 154 strikeouts, and to drive in 116 runs while scoring 100.
When the Phillies signed Harper, they did so knowing that his floor was that of a well above average player. ZiPs projects this, as the projected fWAR would be the fifth-highest of Harper’s career.
But for the Phillies to have a chance at contending with the current roster construction, Harper may need to have a season similar to the one he had in 2015, when he finished with 9.3 fWAR and won the NL MVP. And that is part of why the Phillies paid Harper his massive contract: While his floor is that of a very good player, his ceiling is much higher.
It seemed like Harper was tapping into that ceiling in the latter half of the 2019 season, when he had a .941 OPS. While he continued this into the start of the 2020 season, his struggles combined with the shortened season prevented him from having a full season of elite production.
Harper matching his ZiPs projections would certainly be a solid season. But, the 28-year-old might just be due for something even better.
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