Going Deep: Harper Chooses The Phillies
Free agent superstar Bryce Harper pushed his decision as far into February as he could before signing a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies on Thursday. The deal is a win for both parties, as the Phillies land the new face of their franchise, while Harper shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with rent money on the first of the month. Fantasy owners should be excited about Harper’s future as well, especially those who own him in dynasty leagues.
Citizen’s Bank Park Power
As if Harper needed a boost to his power, he now finds himself playing half of his games in one of the most homer-friendly parks in all of baseball. Rotogrinders has an excellent park factors page, and the table below shows its ratings for a left-handed hitter in Harper’s old park in Washington and in his new park in Philadelphia. 1.0 is league average, while anything above 1.0 is better than league average.
While Nationals Park ranks slightly above Citizen’s Bank Park in most categories, Harper’s new home in Philadelphia more than makes up for those deficiencies by boosting home runs. Only Yankee Stadium ranks ahead of Citizen’s Bank Park in allowing home runs to left-handed hitters. And while Harper has seen his production fluctuate wildly over the past several years, there is little doubt that he has tremendous home run potential. Harper has a realistic shot at 40 home runs in 2019.
As positive as Philadelphia is for Harper’s 2019 fantasy prospects, this is even bigger news for those who own Harper in dynasty leagues. With rumors swirling around Harper joining the San Francisco Giants, his dynasty stock suddenly looked shaky. A move to Oracle Park would have been the worst possible destination for his home run potential, as it has produced a 0.60 home run factor for left-handed hitters. Dynasty owners can now breathe a sigh of relief, as Harper can continue to focus on reaching base and hitting for power, a combination that should be easier to maintain as he reaches the end of his lengthy contract. At age 26, Harper remains a top-end dynasty asset as he joins the Phillies.
Lineup and Team Factors
Philadephia’s projected batting order has been all over the map in the short time since the signing, including on our Pitcher List Community Discord, where I counted at least three different proposed batting orders in the aftermath of the signing. However it shakes out, Harper will hit second or third in the order and will be surrounded by some combination of Andrew McCutchen, Jean Segura, Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, and possibly Cesar Hernandez. The Phillies found themselves in the bottom third of the league in runs scored this past year, but the additions of Harper, McCutchen, Segura, and Realmuto will turn that around in a hurry. Barring injury, Harper should produce excellent runs scored and runs batted in totals for his new club.
It’s worth noting that the Phillies also ranked in the bottom third of baseball in stolen bases last year. Harper’s value isn’t dependent on stolen bases, but he has been able to reach double-digit steals in four of his seven big league seasons, topping out at 21 stolen bases in 2016. While the Phillies may want to keep their massive investment healthy, it seems unlikely that they would change Harper’s game too much at such a young age and with so many years left on his contract. Harper has proven to be an up-and-down stolen base threat in the past, however, so it’s worth monitoring what manager Gabe Kapler has to say, if anything, as the season approaches.
ADP and Rankings
Harper has an average draft position of around 18 to 20 overall on most sites and is typically the sixth or seventh outfielder taken. Pitcher List’s Ben Palmer recently ranked Harper as the fourth-best fantasy outfielder before Thursday’s signing, and Harper’s new home is unlikely to lower any of these rankings. I would expect Harper’s ADP to rise, if only slightly, as the uncertainty of his new team and any worries of a prolonged holdout are lifted. It may even be possible that his ADP rises into the first round once fantasy owners factor in the home run potential of his new home park.
Even if his ADP rises, Harper is a worthwhile pick anywhere after the top half of the first round. His batting average has been as high as .330 and as low as .243 over the past four years, and Harper has battled injuries throughout the early stages of his career. But Harper has shown his massive upside before and has reached heights that can only be matched by those at the top of fantasy drafts. Now that he has a home in Philadelphia, look for drafters to buy back in on Harper.
(Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire)