Phillies 2024 Season Preview: 1B Bryce Harper

Now healthy and with a full offseason to prepare, projections expect Harper to return to being Bryce Harper in 2024.
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper / Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The next player spotlighted in our Philadelphia Phillies 2024 Season Preview series is first baseman Bryce Harper

Previous season previews: José AlvaradoAndrew BellattiAlec BohmConnor BrogdonNick CastellanosRodolfo CastroKody ClemensJake Cave, Dylan Covey, Seranthony Domínguez, Kolby Allard

We'll examine Harper's 2023 season and then evaluate projections for the 2024 season using the Steamer and ZiPS projection systems, which can be found on FanGraphs.

Bryce Harper 2023 stats and 2024 projections

2023 Stats: 126 G, 546 PA, 21 HR, 72 RBI, 11 SB, 80 BB, .293/.401/.499, 146 OPS+, 3.7 fWAR

2024 Steamer: 146 G, 642 PA, 30 HR, 97 RBI, 13 SB, 91 BB, .283/.389/.518, .907 OPS, 4.0 fWAR

2024 ZiPS DC: 146 G, 630 PA, 30 HR, 92 RBI, 13 SB, 91 BB, .281/.388/.527, .914 OPS, 4.3 fWAR

Bryce Harper 2024 season preview

Bryce Harper, 31, will enter his sixth year with the Phillies in 2024. After missing the beginning of the 2023 season due to recovery from Tommy John surgery in November of 2022, Harper was quick to get back in the lineup and eventually back out on the field in his brand new position.

It was obvious through the lack of the power stroke that the two-time MVP had lost some strength while rehabbing his throwing arm. While his over-the-wall power took time to return, Harper was still hitting and slashing like he had never left. The perennial All-Star used his bat and his new-found first baseman's mitt to propel the Phillies to their second straight NLCS and capture the third Silver Slugger Award of his career.

Projections point to a power resurgence for Harper

Both models expect Harper's power to return closer to where fans have seen him over his 12-year career. With a full offseason of rest and recovery, the home runs are expected to return, with Steamer and ZiPS each projecting 30 long balls in 2024.

Harper had close to a career-low .206 ISO in 2023. In the projections, his ISO jumps to .235 according to Steamer and .246 by ZiPS' calculations, which puts him right around his .240 career average. Last season, he put a ton of balls in play but wasn't slugging like normal.

The drop in batting average in the projections makes sense when you notice his .352 BABIP from 2023. That was almost .030 higher than his career average and tied for the fourth-best mark of his career, two of which were MVP seasons.

One big jump we'll see this year is in his WAR. Over the past two years, Harper has spent multiple instances on the IL, causing him to miss time and spend a significant amount of time as the DH.

With no way to collect defensive WAR, his numbers sank below his usual standard, ending with 2.4 in 2022 and 3.3 in 2023. With the Phillies announcing that the former right fielder will be their new first baseman, projections see his WAR climbing to 4.0 and 4.3 in 2024.

Bryce Harper should be back to being Bryce Harper

Still in the prime of his career, somehow, after 12 seasons, it's understandable that projections would see Harper leveling out. Most of his advanced statistics for the 2024 season look similar to 2023, such as his walk and strikeout rates, WRC+, and baserunning numbers.

With both systems projecting the 31-year-old to play his most games since 2019, the biggest difference in the outlook for this year will be the power coming back and collecting more counting stats. There are expected to be improvements in total hits, home runs, doubles, walks, RBI, and runs.

As anyone who has watched Bryce Harper can tell you, if he gets into a groove and plays a complete season, there's plenty of MVP upside in the bat. Plus, with an entire offseason to work on his defensive game, Harper should be back to his superstar form and will help carry the Phillies on both sides of the ball.