It's been 188 days since Bryce Harper was named the 2021 National League Most Valuable Player Award recipient. Somewhere in those 188 days, somehow, the Philadelphia Phillies' superstar got even better.
The goings were tough early for the right fielder, as he got off to a slow initial start to the season. In his first nine games, Harper hit just .156 with a .644 OPS, slugging just one home run in that span.
In the 25 games that have followed, though, Harper is hitting .353 with a 1.111 OPS, alongside 20 extra-base hits. He is hotter than hot.
Over that span, Harper has looked near-impossible to retire. Every ball that he's made contact with has either been scorched, or strategically peppered to land in a vacant hole, absent of a fielder. The best part is that he's been making use of all fields. Harper has recorded nine extra base hits to the left side of the field, and thirteen to the right.
Currently, the reigning NL MVP is slashing .305/.361/.634 with nine home runs on the season. He leads the league in runs scored and total bases, is tied for the league lead in doubles with 14, and is also tied for the National League lead in home runs with nine. Surprisingly enough, he is also tied for fourth most stolen bases in the league with six, and is also tied for fourth in RBI with 27.
In his 2021 MVP Award-winning season, Harper led baseball with an outrageous 170 wRC+, as well as a 180 OPS+, while also leading the league in wOBA and xwOBA with totals of 431 and 430 respectively.
Thus far in 2022, Harper touts a superior OPS+ (182) and wRC+ (171), and falls just shy of his wOBA (.422) and xwOBA (.428) numbers from that heroic season. He is playing some ridiculous baseball.
There is, however, a catch to all of this:
It was reported on May 12 that Bryce Harper had suffered a partially torn UCL, which would sideline him from throwing for four weeks.
Apparently, the injury doesn't bother him while swinging, (which is hard to believe) but it will prevent Harper from playing the outfield for a good while to come. This—in particular—is harmful to his MVP case.
Harper is no virtuoso in the field by any means, but he is known for his particularly strong and accurate arm. Hopefully, as long as he remains the Phillies' primary designated hitter, the tear in his UCL will not worsen.
But, therein lies the rub: no player with designated hitter listed as their primary position has ever won their league's respective MVP award. Shohei Ohtani was the first DH to ever take home AL MVP, but even he was also listed as a starting pitcher.
If he continues to produce at the level he is, there is every chance that Bryce Harper will be in the MVP conversation come November. It will be a hard fought battle, as Harper's superstar counterpart, Manny Machado, is also playing out of his mind at the moment, and is lining up to win a Platinum Glove en route to a career season.
Sure, it's May 15, but it's never too early to start dreaming.
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