Ever since entering Major League Baseball as a young phenom with the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper has been a lightning rod. Whenever any young star is outed as the next big thing before putting up any results, there’s bound to be some criticism.
While in Washington, Harper didn’t help the narrative surrounding himself by often displaying a somewhat abrasive personality and having a fairly wide variance in his production from year to year. After he signed a record-breaking 13-year contract with the Phillies in 2019, Harper’s naysayers were only emboldened to continue their cries of the dreaded O-word: overrated.
But Harper’s production since the All-Star Break has certainly silenced many. In August, Harper has arguably been the best hitter in all of baseball with 6 home runs, a .306 batting average, and a league-leading OPS of 1.269. All of this while leading the Phillies back into playoff contention, making the race for the NL East crown a toss-up between the Phillies, Braves, Mets. On the year, Harper has 22 home runs, 50 RBIs, a .297 batting average, and a .989 OPS
With his role leading the charge of a possible playoff team, Harper has once again been generating a ton of buzz and national media attention. Many are now considering Harper to be a serious contender to win his second National League MVP Award.
According to PointsBet, Harper currently has the second-best betting odds to win the award at +400. This is a vast improvement from earlier in the season, where his odds at winning the award were projected to be as high as +10000.
Of course, part of this has to do with the competition. Mets’ ace Jacob de Grom was having a historically dominant pitching season before having to miss a large portion of the season due to lingering injuries. Los Angeles Dodgers stars Max Muncy and Trea Turner are each having phenomenal seasons but fail to get a fair share of the spotlight due to their roles on such a star-studded squad.
This is especially true of Turner, who was traded midseason from the rebuilding Nationals to LA. The MVP has never been awarded to a player who changed teams in the middle of the year, so Turner’s great season would have to be historically notable for him to break this barrier.
Of course, the frontrunner for the award is San Diego Padres star Fernando Tatis Jr., currently sitting at -250. The second-generation superstar is currently leading the NL in home runs (34) and OPS (1.053), and tied for first in stolen bases (23). All of this would make him the obvious winner, but a lingering shoulder injury has caused El Nino to miss time this year and limited his defensive abilities.
With the Padres sliding in his absence, Tatis has the chance to right the ship. In an unprecedented move, Tatis has changed positions midseason in his return and showed no signs of cooling off from where he was pre-injury.
If he can stay on the field and bring the Padres back into contention in the NL West, the award will most likely be his. However, 2015 MVP Bryce Harper will certainly do his very best to put up a challenge.
If Tatis has to go back on the injured list and the Phils can fight their way back to October baseball for the first time since 2011, the smart money is on Bryce Harper to once again be named the National League’s Most Valuable Player.