Bryce Harper is having a very Bryce Harper season. His batting average is .251, lower than his .276 career average, but .002 points higher than last year. He has a .371 OBP and a .838 OPS, again also down for his career, but nothing crazy.
What is concerning, at least for those looking at Harper’s contract and projecting ahead, is his home-run rate. This year, in 501 plate appearances, Harper has 20 home runs. Wanna know how many plate appearances it took him to reach that number the last four years? 241 (2015), 391 (2016), 337 (2017) and 348 (2018).
That 501 number represents a 43-percent increase in plate appearances to reach 20 home runs this year versus last and a 107-percent increase from his MVP season in 2015. That’s a staggering, and bad, trend, especially when you consider he’s playing in a more hitter-friendly park with the Phillies.
While the rest of the MLB is slugging home runs at a record-setting rate, Harper seems to have lost his power, at least so far this year. While it is too early to completely hit the panic button, if you’re a Phillies fan, player or owner, you gotta be concerned.
Harper’s contract is in its first year and he’s making $30 million for it. He has 12 more years and $300 million left on his contract. If his power numbers continue to trend in this direction, it could be the biggest albatross in the MLB.
At his core, Harper is a power hitter. That’s why the Phillies signed him: To be the power bat cleaning up bases filled with teammates. Yes, he gets on base at a good clip (.386 career OBP), but the Phillies didn’t sign him to stand on base.
They signed him to trot around them. If Harper can’t do that, or it takes him more ABs to do so, that’s bad news for the Phillies, and that bad news will only get worse over the next dozen years.