2017 Projection: Is A Rebound Season In Bryce Harper’s Future?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

We haven’t yet released our initial outfielder rankings, something that will happen before the end of the year, but one of the biggest questions is going to be where Bryce Harper fits.  Once considered for the top spot (along with Mike Trout), a poor 2016 campaign appears to have him ticketed down the rankings.  He’ll surely be behind Mookie Betts, but is that how far he falls or will others pass him by?  Let’s take a look, but first the 2016 numbers:

506 At Bats
.243 Batting Average (123 Hits)
24 Home Runs
86 RBI
84 Runs
21 Stolen Bases
.373 On Base Percentage
.441 Slugging Percentage
.264 Batting Average on Balls in Play

Obviously the big questions come in the average and home run departments.  It was the first time he hit below .270 in a season and was coming off a 2015 campaign that saw him launch 42 HR (along with 38 doubles and 1 triple).  Considering he had just 24 doubles and 2 triples in 2016, there’s obviously reason for concern.

Interestingly Harper got off to a good start, with 9 HR in April and 19 prior to the All-Star Break.  His 18.6% HR/FB would be right on par with his career mark (18.5%) and far below his 27.3% from ‘15, but it tumbled to 7.6% in the second half.  In other words, there’s reason to believe in a rebound in the power department based on that alone.

In regards to average, he certainly struggled most of the season with his line drive rate (17.2% overall), but a 32.1% mark in September helps to show that the ability is still there.  It’s even more promising that he actually improved his command of the strike zone, despite the struggles, with a career best 8.6% SwStr% and 27.0% O-Swing%.

In fact he didn’t have a Whiff% above 16.86% (breaking balls), with his biggest problem coming against fourseam fastballs (.199).  Just consider he hit .322 against them in ’15 and that alone indicates just how much of an improvement should be coming.

Now throw in the rediscovery of the SB, something he hadn’t been showing prior to Dusty Baker taking over at manager, and it all comes together for significant upside.  At the end of the day, we are projecting the following for him in 2017:

.291 (160-550), 32 HR, 105 RBI, 95 R, 19 SB, .315 BABIP, .400 OBP, .529 SLG

While those numbers do put him behind Trout and Betts, the intriguing names are going to be Kris Bryant and Charlie Blackmon.  Harper is right in that class, and most likely will be slotted ahead of both of them come our release of the rankings (though Bryant can be debatable).  While he struggled in ’16 there’s every reason to believe in him bouncing back strong and posting a huge 2017 campaign.  Don’t make the mistake of writing him off.

Sources – Fangraphs, Brooks Baseball

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Make sure to check out our other Early 2017 Rankings:

Position
Standard League
OBP League
Catcher03/20/1702/28/17
First Base01/16/1703/07/17
Second Base03/22/1703/09/17
Third Base02/06/1703/12/17
Shortstop02/13/1703/15/17
Outfield#1-20 |03/16/17

#21-40 |03/16/17
03/19/17
Starting Pitcher#1-20 |02/27/17

#21-40 |03/02/17
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Relief Pitcher01/02/17--

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