Draft or Pass: You Should Be Buying Bryce Harper's Bounce-Back

A first-round talent available in the second round is how fantasy fans should be thinking about Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper.
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The still-to-be-determined start of the 2020 MLB season has added an interesting wrinkle to fantasy baseball draft prep. We at SI Fantasy want to provide you with the best possible information heading into your drafts in these unprecedented times.

Our "Draft or Pass" video series takes a closer look at a fantasy player that will be debated often leading up to fantasy drafts, in many cases, because of the delayed start to the season. Are our hosts targeting this player specifically? Are they avoiding him entirely?

Today's feature focuses on Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper.

Draft or Pass at current ADP: 23 (OF8)

As Major League Baseball continues to watch their 2020 season float away like a fart in the wind, even the game's first 300 million dollar man, Bryce Harper, seems to think he may be in line for another form of work this year.

Who can blame him? With no foreseeable end in sight, baseball is feeling like more of a pipedream in 2020 than actual reality. Negotiations have stalled thanks to a complete nonsensical approach from owners who, despite having a figurative red carpet of privilege laid out in front of them, still end up tripping over their own feet every step of the way. Their collective awareness of both their players and fans is the equivalent of former Lions QB Dan Orlovsky running out of the back of the end zone.

So I apologize if today's "Draft or Pass" feels a bit crotchety or comes across with an irritable tone. Bryce Harper is one of the biggest posterchilds of baseball.

We can prove it here at Sports Illustrated!

Assuming we indeed have a season, we would first glance at Harper's standard numbers and think there's positive regression coming in critical areas. His strikeout rate was the second-highest of his career, as well as his OBP and wOBA both fell lower than his career average.

But Harper improved his HR total, drove-in 14 more RBI in two fewer games than a season ago, and did this without much at the top of the lineup after Andrew McCutchen got hurt, as well as a down season from first baseman Rhys Hoskins. With both back in the lineup, Harper should continue to see more pitches, draw more walks, keep driving the ball, and build up his wRC+ back towards his career mark of 138 (after just 125 last year).

The first year on a new team with a massive contract is in the books, and with 12 more years and just over $300 million to go, Harper can finally settle in and focus on a shortened season if an agreement gets worked out.

SI Fantasy analyst Shawn Childs lists Harper as an ideal candidate to bounce back in his second season in Philadelphia:

Harper had the 52nd hard-hit rate (45.6) in baseball while his HR/FB rate (23.5) has been in a tight range over the last three seasons. I love the growth in his RBI rate (20), especially in a down year in batting average. When adding in that Harper lost his leadoff hitter, and Hoskins failed to live up to expectation, he looks poised to add more value in runs and RBI. Pretty much a first-round player with a second-round ADP (25).

Buy the rebound in batting average while understanding he could lead the league in runs, home runs, and RBI. For an owner securing a front-end ace, Harper should be the target with the next pick.

I, too, will be buying on Harper's bounceback and drafting him at his current ADP.

Unless, of course, the Eagles come calling.

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