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2021 Philadelphia Phillies: “Overrated” and Feared

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Coming into the season, the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies will be looking for star outfielder Bryce Harper to continue what he has been doing in his first two seasons as a Phillie.

Since signing his $330 million mega-deal with the Phillies, Harper carries an impressive .262/.385/.518 slash-line. Among hitters with a minimum of 800 plate appearances over 2019 and 2020, Harper’s 132 wRC+ ranks him 16th, and his .374 wOBA ranks 14th.

Of the two seasons, 2020 has by far been his best season as a Phillie and was among the league’s best hitters in 2020. The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies will look for Harper to pick up where he left off in 2020, where he ended the season with a 151 wRC+. At the end of the 2020 season, Harper finished with a .268/.420/.542 slash-line along with 13 home runs in 244 plate appearances. Harper still showed elite plate discipline with a 20.1% walk rate and a 17.6% strikeout rate in those plate appearances.

Now, entering the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies season, Harper has found himself surrounded by being labeled by fans as overrated and overpaid. Harper’s contract is by no means team-friendly or the best contract in all of baseball. His contract carries an AAV of $25,384,615 until the end of the 2032 season. A player of Bryce Harper‘s caliber is easily worth the $25 million per season;

Since the Statcast era began in 2015, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper has been one of the most consistent sluggers in MLB.

Barrel%wOBAxwOBAxBAxSLGBB/K
12.1%.391.396.278.5330.78
Harper’s statcast numbers since 2015

Harper, since 2015 has only posted an XWOBACON below .450 once in that time span, the only season being the 2016 down year for Harper.

2021 Philadelphia Phillies: A Bad year?

In Bryce Harper’s “bad season,” Harper was still an above-average hitter with a 111 wRC+ while carrying an impressive 17.2 walk rate and only struck out at an 18.7% clip.

The now 2021 Philadelphia Phillies outfielder put up 24 home runs and swiped 21 bags in 627 plate appearances during the 2016 season. Harper’s season finished with a .343 wOBA/.358 xwOBA, both numbers being career lows for Harper, but his xwOBA still finished in the 80th percentile.

Harper, over the years, has slowly improved upon his batted ball metrics, and Harper might not be slowing down anytime soon.

seasonBarrel%Hard-Hit%Average Exit Velocity (MPH)Sweet Spot%
201512.9%47.5%91.437.1%
20167.3%36.1%91.930.3%
201711.7%42.6%91.135.8%
201811.5%45.4%%9135.4%
201914.8%45.6%91.937.8%
202017.3%50.7%92.533.3%
Harper’s Batted Ball Metrics Since 2015

In that time span of six-years, Harper would hit 177 home runs which ranked 8th in that time span. Harper wRC+ in that time span would sit at 10th in that time span with a 145 wRC+ (Four-way tie at 145-Harper could be as high as sixth on the wRC+ list).

Harper has one of the most violent swings in baseball, and it plays a large factor in his batted ball metrics through the years. With the 2021 Philadelphia Phillies, Harper will look to continue some of the major steps forward he has made, making hard contact; Harper also took another step forward when he increased his flyball rate up to 45.7% in 2020 with the sacrifice of fewer groundballs and line drives.

Take a Walk

Harper’s crazy power has lead him to become an on-base machine. Since coming into the league, Harper carries a career 15.6% walk rate and carries a more than respectable 0.69 BB/K ratio. Since his rookie season, Bryce Harper has only had one of his nine seasons where pitches were thrown in the zone over 40% of the time. On pitches in the zone, Harper carries a swing rate on those pitches of 74.1%.

Harper carries a league-average swing rate of 45.5% (league average is 46.6%); of those pitches that are labeled as “Meatballs,” Harper dating back to 2017, has crushed the league-average swing rate on those pitches with a meatball swing% in the mid to upper 80 percent with league average being 75.1%. Harper’s game-plan is easy to see when taking a look at his plate discipline stats. If you give him a pitch to hit, he will swing, and it’s as easy as that.

Over the years, Harper has seen his fair share of inconsistency in the batting average compartment, which has caught many fans’ attention. The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies and, for years to come, will look for Harper to continue being one of the most feared hitters in all of MLB. Since 2015 Harper sits only second behind Joey Votto in walks at 578, and only 3 intentional bases on balls of the first place that is held by Mike Trout.

The 2021 Philadelphia Phillies will look for Harper to continue his dominance of getting on base and injecting fear into opposing teams with his immense power.

Bryce Harper obviously doesn’t have the nicest-looking contract if you’re on the end of paying him. However, the value he provides as a hitter whose worst season still had an on-base percentage over .370, you won’t be able to pay for anything less than Harper’s AAV in the prime of his career.

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main image credit Embed from Getty Images

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Murray is a college student attending Humber College for Sport Business, can be found on Twitter at @_MurrayBrown