Fantasy Baseball: Bryce Harper joins Phillies, creates Fantasy juggernaut
Bryce Harper finally found a new home, and it was a best-case scenario for Fantasy players. Chris Towers explains why
With Bryce Harper now officially signed, head over to SportsLine to see the latest projections, cheat sheets, auction values, and more.
The Phillies said they wouldn't be outbid. They said they would spend 'stupid money.'
Turns out, they weren't bluffing, as they signed Bryce Harper to a 13-year, $330 million contract Thursday, the largest contract in the history of American professional sports. Harper is the crown jewel of an impressive offseason for the Phillies, who also added J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen to a promising young core that already got to 80 games.
And Harper also makes the Phillies one of the most exciting teams in Fantasy baseball, too. But it's a symbiotic relationship; the Phillies make Harper more exciting than he otherwise would have been.
Harper has landed in a great spot, in a bandbox ballpark that has one of the best park factors for home runs to either side of the field. That Harper has a career .930 OPS in Citizens Bank Park shouldn't sway you too hard, but he's hit .283/.410/.543 over the last four seasons, and now he's playing half his games in a better place to produce. Up those expectations.
Harper generally doesn't need a ton of help from the ballpark when it comes to homers, but this could be good for an extra two or three over the course of a season. That's not a game changer for Fantasy, necessarily, but his new home park park certainly gives him both a slightly higher floor and slightly higher ceiling. For a player who has struggled with consistency, this is a great result. Especially when one of the likeliest alternatives was in San Francisco, a cavern.
And he'll have plenty of help around him as Harper tries to work his way back to elite Fantasy production. In addition to a great park, he now joins a Phillies lineup that potentially goes seven deep on above-average hitters. He'll have McCutchen and either Cesar Hernandez or Segura hitting in front of him at the top of the order, giving him good on-base skills and good skills on the bases as he bats. And behind him, he has Rhys Hoskins and Realmuto to drive him in, two hitters we expect to have breakout seasons.
When Manny Machado signed with the Padres, Alex Chamberlain when trying to predict run and RBI production, but that's not to say it doesn't matter at all. With high on-base guys in front of him and good overall hitters behind, Harper has a better chance to maximize his production. Plus, this should be a Phillies' lineup that turns over a lot, giving Harper more opportunities to produce. If you wanted to see Harper get back to his MVP level, this is the best case scenario, as he now has a realistic chance at 210-plus runs plus RBI.
As for what Harper does for the Phillies: He makes them potentially one of the best offenses in baseball. This was probably a mid-range offense with upside without Harper, and now it could be a top-five one. SportsLine projections have them jumping from 712 runs to 735 after adding Harper, and that may be underselling the upside here, because they may have six legitimately good hitters now. Their worst regulars are probably Maikel Franco (106 OPS+ last season) and Odubel Herrera (94 OPS+ last season; 104 career). Compare that with NL East rivals like the Mets, who are returning two players from last year with an OPS+ better than Franco's, and whose major additions consist of a catcher with an injury history and a 34- and 36-year-old. This could be a scary offense, one that churns out runs like the Ryan Howard-era Phillies.
It's worth noting, the Phillies also made the division rival Nationals worse. They should still have a decent offense, but right now it's Anthony Rendon, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, and a whole lot of question marks. Harper seemed like a long shot, but shutting the door on the possibility of a return makes that lineup a whole lot shakier. They could be great, but this makes them a little harder to buy into.
The Phillies pretty much had to end this offseason with one of Machado or Harper, and they accomplished that mission. They're legitimate contenders in a loaded NL East, and they might just be the favorite now. That they are also one of the deepest and most interesting teams for Fantasy now wasn't their goal, but we'll take it.
So which Fantasy Baseball sleepers should you snatch in your draft? And which undervalued pitchers can help you win a championship? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Baseball rankings for every single position, all from the model that called Scooter Gennett's huge breakout last season, and find out.
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