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Friday, August 12, 2016

FANTASY BASEBALL CRISIS POINT: BRYCE HARPER OUTFIELDER WASHINGTON NATIONALS

Very rarely does a player merit a SECOND Crisis Point post during the course of a season but such is the special case of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper in 2016.  The consensus number 2 pick in all drafts this past March, Harper's status was never more hallowed as he came off a video game-like 2015 campaign where he hit 42 home runs, collected 118 RBI, and batted .330 at the ripe old age of 22.  With a few seasons at least of ceiling left, Harper was as can't miss as it gets entering into 2016.  Well as is almost always the case, a consensus on a player often is wrong and those who own Harper this season can attest to this.  While Daniel Murphy is putting up the MVP season for the Nats and not Harper batting in front of his teammate, the latter has endured a frustrating 2016 where he goes into Friday's game with a woeful .233 average to go with a better 20 homers and 57 RBI.  Harper is also dealing with injuries as he is currently sidelined with a sore neck.  On pace for around 30 homers and well short of 100 RBI, there is no doubt that Harper has not met expectations no matter how lofty.  There are a few things at work here, starting with the fact pitchers are not giving Harper much to drive and instead are grooving fastballs to Murphy.  One can easily see what is going on here with this as Murphy is expected to win the batting title as he has been around .350 all year and he already has set a career-high in home runs.  Meanwhile Harper admittedly has grown frustrated with the pitches off the plate and in turn, has chased more than ever before which has gone a long way toward him batting .233.  On the flip side though, Harper has also had some of the worst BABIP luck in the game as he currently carries a ridiuclously low .237 mark there.  Since .300 is average, one can see how unlucky Harper has gotten.  To put this into more stark reality, Harper's BABIP in 2015 was .369 and in 2014 it was .352.  So Harper is more than 100 points below where his standard BABIP is, even though the latter is squarely in lucky territory.  As we often have seen, guys with good speed can beat the BABIP curve and Harper has this ability.  In fact Harper has 15 stolen bases right now which is a terrific jump from the 6 he had the year prior.  This has helped stave off some of the negative impact from the lost power numbers but still Harper has disappointed in the home run and RBI areas. 

When you put it all together, Bryce Harper will no doubt fall well short of his 2015 numbers but he has not been as bad as it seems given the average.  30 home runs will still be a tremendous number and the uptick in steals has helped.  Harper is still every bit the star he has been and that will continue onto 2017 where he should not be picked out of the top five again. 


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