Phillies 2019 season preview: Right fielder Bryce Harper
Projections for Harper in 2019
The only thing left to wonder about Harper this year is just how big of an impact he can make for this team. Can he find another way to win an MVP award for a team that will be facing a tough race in the National League East?
One sign that Harper could be in for a big year is his career numbers at Citizens Bank Park. In 50 games there, he has 14 home runs, 32 runs batted in, and a .930 OPS. Being able to play there for a full season should help boost his numbers. Playing in a hitter’s park was one of the reasons Harper cited when asked why he signed with the Phillies.
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However, questions remain about Harper’s defensive ability. He finished 2018 with -3.2 defensive wins above replacement, far and away the worst of his career and second-worst in baseball to Rhys Hoskins. His -26 defensive runs saved were also a career-worst by a mile and second-worst to Charlie Blackmon among outfielders. That poor defense dragged down Harper’s win above replacement totals as he finished with 4.2 offensive WAR.
Harper states that his bad numbers came from having to play center field; he played the most innings in center since his rookie year and had -10 DRS there. He also says recovering from the hyperextended right knee he suffered in 2017 hindered his performance early on.
Compared to the rest of his career, Harper’s 2018 season was an anomaly. In the six seasons prior, Harper never finished below -3 DRS and only had a negative ultimate zone rating once. If his defensive numbers are bad again this year, then there should be some cause for concern, but at this point, the recency bias is what has people so concerned.
If Harper just plays mediocre to average defense this year, his offensive production will really shine. Playing in Citizens Bank Park could push his numbers back towards MVP levels and help bring his new team to the playoffs for the first time in eight years.