3 bold predictions for Bryce Harper with the Phillies in 2019
Now that all the speculation is over and the dust has settled, we finally know where Bryce Harper will be playing baseball this season: in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love.
The Phillies have had one of the busiest offseasons of any organization in the bigs, but signing Harper is most certainly the cherry on top, the perfect left-handed slugger that Gabe Kapler and Co. so desperately needed in the lineup.
Harper was part of a very talented nucleus with the Washington Nationals, but may have even more dangerous bats around him with his new team. From Jean Segura and Rhys Hoskins to Andrew McCutchen and J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies are stacked offensively.
Now that he has the richest contract in the history of baseball, how will the 26-year-old from Vegas perform on the field in Philadelphia?
Here are three bold predictions for Harper in his first season with the Phillies.
3. He will not be the team leader in home runs
No, Harper will not hit the most homers for the Phillies next season.
Although he has averaged over 32 homers for the last four seasons, Harper will fall just short of the team lead due to a 40-plus homer season from Philly slugger Rhys Hoskins.
Although he posted a lower average exit velocity than Harper, Hoskins had a higher launch angle than Bryce, which is also a beneficial trait at Citizens Bank Ballpark given the short porch in left field.
Hoskins matched Harper’s 34 home runs in 2018 in just his second big-league season, and could actually be the biggest beneficiary from Harper’s presence in the lineup.
Opposing pitchers have a tall task likely facing Segura, Harper, and Realmuto all in a row, which means that they could be susceptible to falling into a lull against Hoskins, and he will crush mistake pitches all season long.
Harper will still hit at least 30 homers in Philly if he is fully healthy, but Hoskins will be the team leader.
2. New career-high in stolen bases
The Phillies stole just 69 bases as a team last season, ranking 23rd in the majors. But with McCutchen, Segura, and Harper all on board, Philadelphia now has some speed on the bases.
Manager Gabe Kapler might choose to put things in motion more frequently, especially because the bottom half of the order is somewhat lacking in the base running department.
Harper stole 13 bases in 2018, and his 81 percent success rate was the best of his career. Harper will swipe at least 22 bags this season on his way to a new career high.
1. Higher WAR than Manny Machado
So, Machado is getting paid higher in terms of AAV. Harper has more guaranteed money. Who is the better investment? Only time will tell, but Harper will post a higher WAR than Machado in 2019.
But Manny seems content with being another part of the rebuilding process in San Diego. While he should still have an excellent season in his own right, there is something to be said for a motivated player joining a franchise built to win right now.
The Phillies have not made the playoffs since 2011 and Harper has yet to make it out of the NLDS. Expect someone as intense and competitive as Harper to give it his all in trying to break both trends.
Harper has not come close to the 9.3 fWAR he posted in his MVP season in 2015 (his next highest is 4.8 in 2017), but he will post at least a 6.5 fWAR this season for a contending Phillies team.