A healthy Bryce Harper is the best hitter in the league, according to MLB analyst

Who's better: Bryce Harper or Aaron Judge?
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper
Philadelphia Phillies first baseman Bryce Harper / Greg Fiume/GettyImages
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When healthy, Bryce Harper is the best hitter in Major League Baseball. It's a bold assessment made by MLB Now host Brian Kenny after a spirited debate on the show this week. Kenny gave an enthusiastic, and some might say biased, speech in support of a healthy Bryce Harper getting the edge over Yankees All-Star Aaron Judge as the best hitter in MLB.

Let's break down his argument, shall we?

Kenny starts his "Bryce Harper is the best hitter in MLB" presentation by stating that Harper's career stats don't reflect how good of a player he really is. His overall OPS from the last three years has him at sixth in the league behind Aaron Judge, Yordan Alvarez, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Juan Soto. Aaron Judge is first by a landslide, and two through five are all very close.

So, Kenny hypothesizes that Harper is "essentially only being beaten by Aaron Judge as a hitter over the last three seasons."

Kenny uses hitting stats from 2021-23 to support his argument. He looks at batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. When comparing Harper's numbers to Judge's, Judge is the clear winner. Both players have similar batting averages and on-base percentages, but Judge has a much higher slugging percentage than Harper.

So, doesn't that settle it? Not for Kenny.

The big "BUT" in his argument is that most of Harper's stats are from when he played hurt. We all remember in 2022 when Blake Snell broke Harper's thumb and halted the MVP season Harper was having.

Kenny references Harper coming back from that injury before it was fully healed to get the team back on track. So, for the rest of 2022, Harper played hurt. Then, after the 2022 season, Harper had Tommy John surgery and came back from that in record time, returning in May 2023 and playing hurt until July, which would have been the normal time frame for Tommy John recovery.

To support his claim, Kenny collected Harper's stats specifically from the games where Harper was not playing with a lingering injury, and the numbers are very impressive.

Timeframe

OBP

SLG

WRC+

2021 full season to before hand injury in 2022

.413

.610

170

2023 season after full surgery recovery

.413

.575

163

2022 and 2023 post season runs

.432

.705

206

It's a different story when comparing these "healthy" Harper statistics to Judge. Harper's numbers are better in that case. With that, Kenny concludes:

"Bryce Harper's better ... this is healthy Bryce Harper, the regular hitter that's out when he's not sacrificing for his team by hanging on, not being able to hit for power, coming back early, and all of that. So you can make the case, and I just did, that healthy Bryce Harper is the best hitter in baseball. This guy's underrated."

As Phillies fans, we wholeheartedly agree that Bryce Harper is the best hitter in the league. However, the holes in Kenny's argument must be acknowledged.

This is a very polarizing take. The biggest issue people have is that Kenny didn't adjust for Judge's healthy games as he did for Harper — Judge has had his fair share of injuries that have impacted his game. Back in June of the 2023 season, he tore a ligament in his toe that sidelined him for 42 games. The Yankees were down badly without him, and Judge rushed back from the injury to save the team, much like Harper did.

Kenny's MLB Now co-host Jon Heyman also gave some criticism, claiming Kenny went through "mental and verbal gymnastics" to get his point across. Heyman's response is that none of these guys are 100 percent, and while, yes, Harper is top 10 in the league, Judge is No. 1.

While this may not be the most foolproof argument on Harper's behalf, we, as a Phillies fan site, will take any opportunity to hype up our star player. Harper is undoubtedly one of the best hitters in MLB, and when he is fully healthy, he's a huge threat at the plate. And so far, the one thing Harper definitely has over Aaron Judge is the postseason clutch gene. Harper has proven to be more reliable in big at-bats and in moments when he's needed the most.

Harper is back to being fully healthy and after his three-home run day against the Cincinnati Reds, he has 24 home runs in his last 68 games. What. A. Stud.

So whether you agree or disagree with Kenny's assessment of Bryce Harper, we can all appreciate his greatness. Hopefully, a healthy Harper sticks around long enough to unquestionably become the best hitter in MLB.

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