What will Year 3 bring for Bryce Harper and the Phillies?
Harper has been as advertised these first two seasons. His OPS as a Phillie is six points higher than it was as a National, and his per-162 averages for homers, doubles and RBI have increased in the brief sample.
He’s had stretches when he’s carried the offense and cold spells. Overall, he’s been Bryce Harper. Yet the Phillies are four games under .500 in those two seasons and the playoff drought has extended to nine.
This opening week feels a bit different. The Phillies have shored up the back of their roster and the payroll has soared past $200 million. The last two seasons, aspects of the team were left incomplete. In 2020, it was obviously the bullpen, which lacked stuff, velocity and experience compared to even league-average bullpens.
And because of the way the roster has rounded out, Harper thinks the 2021 Phillies have a chance to do some damage.
“It’s gonna be a tough division, I’ve said that all spring, but we’re a tough team as well,” Harper said on the Takeoff with John Clark podcast. “We’re flying under the radar a little bit, which is nice, I don’t mind that at all, being able to go in and be an underdog.
“The fans of course deserve it, this ownership group deserves it, but us as players, we deserve it as well. We work so hard in the offseason to get where we are and we can’t not take advantage of our situation. We have to have that sense of urgency. This ownership group and our president of baseball ops (Dave Dombrowski), they went out and got the guys and the tools to be successful.”
Harper is bullish on the bullpen.
“Our bullpen looks very consistent right now, we know what we’re gonna get out of those guys, understanding what their roles can be,” he said. “And then hopefully adding a guy like Brandon Kintzler to that mix, really anchoring our bullpen, knowing we have some veteran guys the young guys can lean on. Jose Alvarado’s very tough, Archie Bradley’s a tough at-bat. Kintzler with that sinker.
“I’m looking forward to that, to everybody buying into their role this year and understanding their role. ... We’re gonna enjoy it. We’re gonna win ballgames.”