MLB insider crowns Bryce Harper as midseason NL MVP

The Phillies first baseman has been picked as the NL MVP of the first half, putting him on track for his third career MVP award.
Philadelphia Phillies v Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Phillies v Detroit Tigers / Nic Antaya/GettyImages

The nickname MV3 is looking to take on a different meaning this season.

Bryce Harper has been outstanding in the first half of the 2024 MLB season, jumping out to a quick start uncharacteristic of his first few years in Philadelphia. For the first time since his MVP campaign in 2021, the two-time NL Most Valuable Player has made it through the first half with little to no injuries and has been the player that he promised fans when signing with Philly.

To start the year, Harper earned May NL Player of the Month honors and followed that up with a second consecutive win after an even better June.

MLB insider crowns Bryce Harper as midseason NL MVP

Harper's great first half has earned him the honor of midseason NL MVP from USA Today's Bob Nightengale, as well as the leading vote-getter in the National League and the All-Star starter at first base.

The Las Vegas native has absolutely scorched the ball, ranking in the top five in several of the most important hitting statistics. Through 81 team games, Harper hit to a .303 average with a .981 OPS while slugging 20 homers and 58 RBI. With a downtick in power numbers last season due to the recovery from his Tommy John surgery the offseason prior, it looks like he is right back to his old ways, on-pace to hit close to 40 home runs and drive in over 100 RBI.

Being one of the top hitters in baseball is one thing, but being able to do it on both sides of the ball makes it even more impressive and adds to the value brought to the team. Being a primary outfielder for his whole career before injuries forced him into the designated hitter role, no one could have expected the transition defensively to first base would be so successful.

Through 74 games at first base, Harper has accumulated four defensive runs saved and has a defensive runs saved per year of seven, which would equal the third-best mark of his career. He has committed only two errors and owns a .997 fielding percentage.

Harper isn't running away with the award however

Although Harper's numbers seem unreal, there has been one player just as good, if not better.

Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Dodgers' massive offseason acquisition, has been playing out of his mind in his new uniform, amassing 4.8 fWAR and a 1.048 OPS. The biggest knock on the former Angel however is that he is a full-time designated hitter, completely diminishing one whole part of the game.

When comparing apples to apples on paper, Ohtani's hitting numbers are better. In almost every category he is having a better, albeit only slightly, season than Harper. The main difference is the impact that the players can have on the game.

While Ohtani's bat is doing wonders for the Dodgers lineup, which has been missing Mookie Betts, his inability to impact the game defensively hurts his case significantly. That's why no DH has ever won the MVP award. Ohtani is having a historic season, but Harper is able to impact the game on more than one level. At the end of the day, Ohtani can only add value when his spot in the order comes up.

MV3 is there when it matters the most

When breaking down the value added between the top players, Harper's MVP case gets substantially better.

In 101 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Ohtani hit to an average of .235 with a .677 OPS and only one home run.

With RISP, Harper has an average of .391, with a 1.406 OPS, smacking 10 home runs and driving in 46 across 92 plate appearances. There's a difference between the best hitter and the most valuable player.

As most Phillies fans know, Harper loves baseball, Philadelphia and the fans. His clutch performances, scorching hot streaks and elite play on both sides of the ball make him one of the front runners for NL MVP. As a player who historically has a better second half, it will be a fun race to watch down to the end.