We knew of this possibility as far back as April. We knew Bryce Harper had ligament damage in his elbow and was forced to play DH from that point forward. But then came the postseason heroics, the NLCS MVP honors, which put those concerns so far out of mind that early drafters basically ignored them, targeting him at the Round 1-2 turn as usual.
Alas, the time has come. Harper has indeed had surgery to repair a torn UCL.
There was some hope initially that he might avoid full-blown Tommy John and instead undergo the same sort of half measure that Harper's own teammate, Rhys Hoskins, had after the 2020 season, making him available for opening day the following year. But we learned Wednesday that Tommy John surgery was indeed the procedure Harper had, which means he could miss the first several months of the 2023 season.
Part of the problem is how long Harper waited. The Phillies' unlikely march to the World Series had them playing games into November. Normally, surgeries are scheduled for right after the season ends in early October, and that's when Hoskins had his.
Now that we know Harper underwent full-blown Tommy John, Shohei Ohtani makes for the most hopeful corollary. Like Harper, he bats opposite what he throws, and with the DH in play, he was able to contribute as a hitter while still rehabbing the elbow early in 2019.
But Ohtani only began DHing in May of that year -- after having the procedure in early October, not late November. Presuming things go just as swimmingly for Harper, it stands to reason that Tommy John surgery would put him out until some point in June, costing him one-third or perhaps even half of the season.
And indeed, the team's press release suggests only that Harper will be back at DH by the All-Star break, though it acknowledges he could be hitting competitively as early as May. It's a confusing contradiction, but it may simply be juxtaposing the most likely scenario against the best-case one.
Some on Twitter have already told me they're eager to take advantage of the discount, but I'm not sure if that's the proper sentiment in this case. We'll know more by the time we're actually drafting, but the possibility of Harper missing multiple months has me eyeing him more like a mid-rounder, draftable outside the top 100 in the same range as Hunter Renfroe and Taylor Ward. Of course, the shallower the league, the more justifiable the risk.
Keep in mind Harper will be eligible only at DH once he does make it back, at least in standard CBS Sports leagues. And because he'll likely still be rehabbing the elbow at that point, he won't be picking up outfield eligibility any time soon.