ESPN is publishing its own list of the 100 greatest Major League Baseball players of all time. The list, which includes current players, was voted on by ESPN writers and editors.
Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper made the cut, coming in at No. 94 ahead of Hall of Fame players such as Barry Larkin, Phil Niekro, Charlie Gehringer, Duke Snider and former Phillie Jim Thome. Roy Halladay (No. 92), Ryne Sandberg (No. 91), Steve Carlton (No. 58), Pete Alexander (No. 57), Nap Lajoie (No. 48), Jimmie Foxx (No. 40), Joe Morgan (No. 37) and Pete Rose (No. 34) are among the former Phillies on the list. ESPN plans to reveal its top 25 players on Thursday, which will presumably include Mike Schmidt.
Harper’s inclusion on the list was the subject of debate among voters as it’s difficult to contextualize the accomplishments of a player like Harper whose career is nowhere close to being complete. Jeff Passan mentioned that Harper probably misses the list if he wasn’t a two-time MVP Award winner.
In a blurb spotlighting Harper, ESPN mentions that he was one of the most famous amateur players prior to being drafted No. 1 overall by the Washington Nationals in 2010 and had one of the best offensive seasons of the last decade in 2015. Among players through age 28, he’s 17th all-time in home runs (267), sixth in walks (833) and 36th in on-base percentage among hitters with at least 1,000 hits through age 28 (.392). He’ll need to continue to perform at a high level for the bulk of the remainder of his career to be considered among the greatest players ever, but he’s certainly done enough through this point to warrant consideration.
It’s way too early to make any broad conclusions, but Harper is setting himself up to have an interesting Hall of Fame case. As Scott Lauber of the Philadelphia Inquirer noted in November, ZiPS projects Harper to finish his career with 521 home runs, 1,589 RBIs, 1,527 walks, 65.8 fWAR and a 135 OPS+.
A lot can change between now and whenever Harper’s career comes to an end. How will injuries affect Harper as he ages? Will he put up another MVP caliber season? Will he ever have a signature postseason moment with a Phillies franchise that has struggled to put together a competitive team around him? All of these questions will impact his eventual Hall of Fame candidacy and the next ten years will give us answers to these questions and more.
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